– to promote export, investments
By Navendra Seoraj
CREATING an enabling environment for business and investments is high on the agenda of the new Government, and part of the effort to achieve this goal will be to create free and special zones.
“We will be working collectively with all ministries and private stakeholders to foster an enabling environment and promote a model whereby free zones or special zones are created to help promote investments and exports,” said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Go-Invest, Dr. Peter Ramsaroop during an exclusive interview with the Guyana Chronicle.
Free economic zones are defined as a class of special economic zones designated by the trade and commerce administrations of various countries.
The term is used to designate areas in which companies are taxed very lightly, or not at all, to encourage economic activity. The taxation rules are determined by each country.
Already, the new People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has announced the removal of value-added tax (VAT) on exports and other concessions/measures to stimulate growth in the private sector.
Dr. Irfaan Ali-led administration, within the space of two months, has sought to implement an array of policies and initiatives to foster development within the public and private sectors.
Dr. Ramsaroop said Government’s aim is to create a ‘flourishing’ business environment for current and new business ventures, and to also have a collaborative and consultative relationship with the private sector.
Creating such an environment would entail transformative investments such as a deep-water harbour, which will essentially close the infrastructural gap in the local economy.
A deep-water harbour is said to be a fixed or floating structure that is built at strategic points in a country to serve as a hub for the transport of goods.
AIDING ECONOMIC GROWTH
This will complement a “free zone” because it is known to be a major source of aiding in economic growth, as it links one country to several others. The port is useful in not only shipping items to that country cheaper, but serves as a gateway for other countries’ goods to pass through as well.
United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, in 2019, had pointed to the need for a deep-water port in Guyana, as such a port will aid in reducing the time it takes to transport goods and moreover the costs attached to doing so.
“It (deep-water harbour) will drastically improve the time and economics of importing and exporting goods by ocean freight, opening up global trade,” said Dr. Ramsaroop.
This initiative will be supplemented by the Linden to Lethem Road, the high-span bridge across the Demerara River and other transformational infrastructure which will pave the way for the expansion of the economy and lead to the creation of jobs and other benefits.
Providing there is connectivity, Dr. Ramsaroop said the ultimate goal is to create a sectoral prospectus to allow investors to develop their strategy, timeline, engagement process, project value, investment cost and returns.
SINGLE-WINDOW CLEARANCE SYSTEM
To allow for the ease of doing business, Government will also create a single-window clearance system which will essentially reduce bureaucracy and cost of doing business in Guyana.
Trinidadian Economist, Dr. Roger Hosein had said: “Doing business in Guyana is way, way too difficult in terms of the international comparison or even in terms of the Caribbean comparison.”
Dr. Hosein said Guyana must do its “homework” on how to improve the ease of doing business here; if the country is successful in this bid, greater private capital injection and foreign capital injection will be facilitated.
Although not responding directly to Dr. Hosein, Dr. Ramsaroop said Guyana will be reducing bureaucracy for the processing time for applications and other relevant paper work required for doing business in Guyana.
The CEO emphasised that Guyana is now officially an oil producing nation so the nation’s approach to development will be greatly enhanced.
Recent oil and gas discoveries have transformed the nation into a petroleum economy that was once heavily dependent on agriculture and mining. Guyana is now recognised as a premier frontier of crude oil exploration and production, whilst it continues to expand and build on its established industries.
Guyana recently signed an agreement with the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to strengthen energy and infrastructure finance and market building cooperation between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Guyana.
This will serve to enhance the bilateral agreement between the two governments and will bring forth an array of opportunities, as Guyana positions itself as a major player within the global trade and investment community in the Americas.
“I strongly believe that opportunities for investors with a vision and a capacity to deliver are immense. Guyana is open for investments with its vast natural resources; a young, educated and English-speaking population; stable and open financial markets; investment protection under the law; unrestricted repatriation of profits; and capital; duty-free access and equal treatment for local and foreign investors,” said Dr. Ramsaroop.
He maintained that Guyana is an excellent jurisdiction for investors, as the country is well-known, outside of its territories, as a business-friendly destination with a wide range of incentives and protection for foreign investors.
These incentives range from exemption from customs duty on most plant machinery and equipment, zero rate of VAT on exports and, most importantly, full and unrestricted repatriation of capital, profits and dividends.