MINISTER of Business, Dominic Gaskin, says that while energy will not be channelled into reviewing all concessions granted under the previous Administration, any brought to his attention that results in unfair competition would be examined.
Gaskin told the Guyana Chronicle that his focus is not to go back, but to go forward; and the aim is to attract more investors and to promote more exports.
He said corrective measures will be taken to weed out unfair practices wherever and whenever found.
“I think we have a duty to examine those cases; and at the Ministry of Business, we do not have the authority to revoke or to change those concessions that were previously granted,” the Minister said.
“However, what we can do is to have very clear policies based on fairness, and have a system whereby unfair competition, assistance from the state to certain companies to the detriment of others, is addressed,” he added.
Currently, the Ministry does not have the capacity to extensively review the voluminous number of concessions granted to decide which is fair and unfair.
But in a bid to eliminate favouritism, all potential investors will have to go through GO-Invest.
There have also been allegations of Government interfering in the day-to-day running of GO-Invest under the former Administration. Instead of some investors’ application being processed by the investment agency and other lawful organisations, the potential investors went to higher authorities and caused instructions to be passed down to Go-Invest and other agencies to see their applications through.
GO-Invest has been fully aware of some of those instructions.
GO-Invest, the Minister said, would also be required to work more closely with other state agencies, such as the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Lands and Surveys Commission, the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), to ensure emergence of a common interpretation of the laws regarding concessions.
Minister Gaskin said the Ministry of Business will not turn a blind eye to unfair competition, as it does not want investors to operate in an environment where some in the same line and scope of business have more concessions than others.
“We need to look at this and have a level playing field for investors. A lot of what attracts investors has to do with investors’ confidence, which is brought about by fairness, transparency, good governance, and respect for the law. Respect for these contributes to a more investor-friendly climate,” he noted.
Last year was bright for Guyana in terms of investments. GO-Invest reported that the country was able to attract some $196 billion in investments from 234 projects, and created some 15,868 jobs.
According to GO-Invest, of the 234 projects, 162 were piloted by local businesses, while the remainder constituted foreign direct investments.
The areas that attracted the investments were agriculture, energy, information and communication technology (ICT), light manufacturing, mining, services, tourism, and wood products.
Investments in local projects totalled some $107.5 billion and created some 7,254 jobs, while foreign direct investment amounted to $88.4 billion.
Chief Executive Officer of GO-Invest, Mr Keith Burrowes, had said the successes achieved last year were due to Guyana being more aggressively marketed. He pointed out that the marketing and promotional campaigns will intensify this year, both nationally and internationally.
Minister Gaskin said he welcomes this move, and is fully behind it.
Last year, GO-Invest participated in the Agriculture and Food Fair in St. Croix; the Foire Expo in Martinique and Guadeloupe; the University of Guyana Job Fair, and GuyExpo.
It also participated in a meeting to assess the export of products from Guyana and Suriname to Brazil; consultation on market intelligence; and development of a regional export promotion strategy; continuous match-making between importers and exporters; and outreaches in Anna Regina, New Amsterdam, Rose Hall Town and Linden which targeted persons who were interested in starting a business or expanding their businesses.
In addition, GO-Invest collaborated with GuyExpo to host the Investment Forum in 2014; signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to increase co-operation and foster collaboration with the Barbados Investment and Development Co-operation (BIDC); and collaborated with the Guyana Consulate in Miami to host the Guyana Trade, Tourism and Investment Expo 2014.
By Tajeram Mohabir