–as President Ali vows to tackle wasteful gov’t spending

The elimination of wasteful government spending will pave the way for more monies to be spent on human empowerment and economic expansion, according to President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Friday. “We have to ensure wasteful spending is removed from public expenditure. This will allow us to have more money directed to the creation of wealth, more to the empowerment of our human resource, more money for expansion of the economy,” Dr. Ali said in his keynote address to the 29th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) which was held virtually. The Head of State reaffirmed his government’s commitment to providing free university education, at least by the end of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C)’s five-year tenure (2020–2025). “The objective of this is to ensure that not only do we have the most vibrant economy, but also the most vibrant pool of human resources; the most talented, skilled and qualified human resources to take our country forward,” Dr. Ali posited.

He said that the government’s commitment to education and human development is reflected in the recent launch of the 20,000 Scholarship Programme, which seeks to build capacity and position Guyanese to effectively add to Guyana’s advancement.
Dr. Ali also spoke extensively about his government’s objective to carve Guyana into an economic powerhouse of the region; a feat which, he says, requires a united approach.
“This is the focus of our government; positioning Guyana as a mainstay for regional growth and development. Our ambitions and targets are beyond our national needs, because we understand that we operate in a much larger market, and we have great potential in reaching that market,” Dr. Ali posited as he underscored the critical role that the private sector has to play in advancing the national development agenda.

As a means of enabling the private sector to do more, the President reiterated his commitment to ensuring the requisite systems and framework are in place to facilitate investments, and add exponentially to Guyana’s expanding economy. Dr. Ali also spoke specifically about the importance of instituting and establishing the requisite infrastructural projects that support and inspire business development. “It is about how do we reduce the cost of doing business,” the President recognised. He said that once the country is able to reduce the cost of doing business here, emphasis must be placed on improving the efficiency and reliability of these businesses.
In addition to building capacity and improving the efficiency of doing business in Guyana, President Ali also pointed to the importance of maintaining security and effectively implementing local content. “These are all things that we have to fix, and we will be fixing it, but importantly, we will be fixing it with the partnership of the private sector,” the Head of State noted. He also gave the government’s commitment to ensuring that the policy is finalised soon.

Still on the subject of building capacity and improving the business climate, Dr. Ali reiterated the need for diversification within the major sectors, so as to guard against the mistake commonly made by many oil-producing nations, which is the over-reliance on its oil wealth.
“While our focus and objective over the medium-term period is to bolster economic growth, we will remain vigilant of avoiding any supply-side constraints, and, indeed, the ‘Dutch Disease’. To do this, we have to ensure that our economy and the strength of our economy rest on varied plans,” Dr. Ali posited.
To this end, the Head of State pointed to the need for support to be given to other extractive sectors such as mining and forestry, as well as the strategic creation of new agro-industrial parks, which will position Guyana as a premier food provider.
Additionally, President Ali said that efforts are being made for Guyana to take an even stronger position within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
“We’re also working aggressively on breaking down the bias within CARICOM itself, so the market can be expanded,” Dr. Ali noted.

Meanwhile, outgoing Chairman of the PSC, Nicholas Boyer reflected on the events of the past year, noting that the successes of his tenure were limited due to the unfortunate state of the country at the time. “Not so long ago, we were faced with a threat to the political and economic stability of the country, which would have wiped out everything we all worked so hard to achieve, including our thriving business climate,” Boyer reminded his audience. He said that fortunately, the process of recovering and repairing has commenced.
“The Private Sector Commission, this past year, began work to restore investors’ confidence in the economy by engaging with several stakeholders. These include a US Congressional delegation, the Jamaican Chamber of Commerce, the foreign missions in Guyana, and several government agencies, along with the new consignment of ministers,” Boyer said.

The PSC official also lauded the financial measures instituted by the Dr Irfaan-Ali Government, and expressed the PSC’s appreciation for inclusion and consultation during the compilation of the national budget. “Because of the actions within the business community, and immediate measures introduced by the government in Budget 2020, a number of organisations have been able to survive the pandemic in a way that has been quite surprising,” Boyer said.
He also underscored the importance of the PSC inserting itself into the critical conversations that surround national policies and issues that affect all areas of the economy, including taxation, modern investment laws and local-content stipulations.
Boyer also pointed to the imperative nature of pursuing and ensuring electoral and constitutional reforms.