– Private Sector, Jagdeo question the basis for determination of numbers presented by Finance Minister
The almost ‘imaginary’ job creation figures supposedly facilitated by the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) which was supplied to the House when Finance Minister Winston Jordan presented Budget 2017 on Monday last have been thoroughly rejected by former President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, as well as the Private Sector Commission (PSC) this past week.
Both the PSC and Dr Jagdeo met with the local media on separate occasions and questioned the ‘misleading’ figures alluded to by the Finance Minister and supplied by GO-Invest – the entity responsible for facilitating investments locally on behalf of the administration.
Jordan in presenting Budget 2017 said: “Over the course of 2016, total investments, including foreign direct investments (FDI), facilitated by GO-Invest totalled $114.8 billion, a significant improvement over the $89.3 billion inflow in 2015.”
“This year’s investments will yield over 6,000 jobs in various sectors, including 1,327 in agriculture; 1,366 in energy; 1,500 in ICT; and 1,483 in tourism and services,” Jordan stated.
He announced that in 2017, GO-Invest will target $139.8 billion in investments and the composition of the investment portfolio will be restructured to ensure greater diversification within the economy, with additional focus placed on the tourism, agriculture, and light manufacturing sectors, and that these ventures are estimated to create an additional 3,870 jobs.
Chairman of the PSC’s Committee on Economic and Financial Affairs, Ramesh Persaud was this past week, asked about the business community’s confidence in the projections by the Finance Minister with regards the monies to be invested in Guyana in the coming year in addition to the jobs to be created.
Persaud told the local media that he is unsure as to what is the basis for the determination of the numbers presented by the Finance Minister.
According to Persaud, while anecdotal evidence points to the Minister’s projection being unrealistic, there is a paucity of confidence in the local business community.
He said that as long as the local business committee is uninspired, this will inherently be passed on to any foreign investors.
The PSC, he said, is of the view that the Budget is without a clear vision and will in fact lead to more hardships.
Speaking of some of the inconsistencies in the lack of policies that have been daunting the PSC, it was pointed out that in the 2016 Budget, Government had made a special effort to add a range of items to the zero-rated category of the VAT regime.
One year later, Government has abandoned this altogether.
Meanwhile, on the matter of GO-Invest and the unreliability of the figures it released, PSC executive Ramesh Dookhoo said bluntly that GO-Invest has a documented history of simply calling numbers, a practice that had also obtained during the previous administration and “they (GO-Invest) seem not to have got rid of that position.”
Jagdeo said Minister Jordan sought to create a very misleading impression that GO-Invest facilitated investments in 2016 that created over 6000 jobs.
He recalled that Minister Jordan said that 1327 jobs were created in the agriculture sector, but Jagdeo has since challenged the Minister to provide evidence that these jobs were actually created, saying it could not be in the rice and sugar sectors.
The former President explained that a proposal could very well come into GO-Invest with a promise to create 50 jobs, but this does not mean it will actually materialise, since the proposals may very well never be implemented: “I would like to see where these 1327 new jobs were created in agriculture in 2016; he should be able to tell us.”
According to a report in today’s Guyana Times, Jagdeo also used the occasion to challenge the Finance Minister to provide evidence that there was in fact 1366 jobs created in the energy sector.
“It couldn’t be ExxonMobil; it couldn’t be (so) where else?”
The Opposition Leader stated that when the Finance Minister spoke vaguely about job creation by GO-Invest, he consciously failed to deal with the net job loss as was experienced with the case of Barama, and Demerara Timbers, which has since pulled operations from Guyana.
On the matter of Go-Invest, the former President conceded that during his tenure he would have taken advantage of using the misleading figures supplied by Go-Invest saying, “GO-Invest numbers have always been suspect.”
He said this is the position since it is difficult to track whether any of the proposals actually lead to the creation of any jobs through implementation.