The 127th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), held at Duke Lodge in Kingston, Georgetown on Thursday, saw calls being made for the Government to be bold in creating legislation and a tax structure that would encourage, rather than deter, investment.
Outgoing President of GCCI, Vishnu Doerga, expressed the need for more legislation to be tabled that would create opportunities to lift Guyanese out of poverty. He pointed out that the private sector is a key stakeholder in the fight against poverty, since it creates the majority of employment.
“We want a tax structure that will reduce the burden and incentivize growth for the compliant. I must stress for the compliant, because we seem to be in a (situation wherein) the compliant pays for the non-compliant,” he expressed.
Doerga says there is need for legislation to be created where absent, or amended where present, in order to improve opportunities for investment. He said investors need to know that they can get a return while at the same time creating higher paying jobs for the local workforce and increased value- added services and products.
“We still have the outstanding issue of how (to) deal with the allocation to SMEs (Small-Medium Enterprises) procurement across all our agencies, and then in terms of our commercial law. How do we start focusing on our legal framework so that it makes it easier for people to get legal resolutions to civil conflicts?” he asked.
The business executive posited that if an investor wanted to do business but knew there was a risk that litigation may take years to get a result, then that investor may rather not invest. Hence he emphasized the need to make the environment more conducive for doing business.
We’ve seen movement in that direction. And that is what we will keep (advocating) for,” he declared. “We’ve also noticed, over the past few years, that while we have been getting early budgets, timely spending of such approved budgetary measures will provide the needed financial stimulus to energize our economy. It’s excellent that our budgets keep increasing. We know it’s being funded with the taxation that also increases hand in hand. But (if) the money isn’t spent and it doesn’t find its way back into the economy, it is of no use,” he explained.
He expressed worry that while Guyana has been saving money, tracing the money and ensuring that it is directed in a way that contributes to national development would be a challenge. He was nevertheless optimistic that transformation was on the horizon for Guyana.
“Transformation is inevitable, especially if we look at 2019 and beyond. Guyana will definitely be transformed, but will it be a wealthy, prosperous state, or will we remain for our entire history the land of much potential?” he asked.
Doerga disclosed that for the past year, the GCCI has been fixing its internal structural weaknesses. The executive stated that GCCI is upgrading its human resources, and will be aiming to provide more training, support, and add more skills to the organization.
Doerga has, over the past year, been outspoken on matters of taxation; in particular the 14 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) which has been placed on private education as well as utility services such as water and electrical. He has also made clear his opposition to the controversial Georgetown parking meter project.
The election of the 2016/2017 GCCI council is expected to take place by next week, after which a new executive will take over the reins from Doerga, owner of Doerga Business Enterprises.
The GCCI is the oldest private sector representative organization in Guyana. Established in 1889, it is a member-driven and professionally staffed non-profit association of business people who are committed to improving the economic climate and quality of life in Guyana.
The GCCI’s mission is to represent the voice of the business community in Guyana, and to advocate policies that would stimulate trade and investment, connect businesses, sustain economic growth and expand member opportunities. All of this is with the aim of contributing to a stable and sustainable economic and social environment in Guyana, wherein businesses can prosper. (Guyana Times)