GMSA records successful year despite COVID-19 pandemic, elections impasse

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Shyam Nokta

Despite the prevailing threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the five-month elections impasse, the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) has recorded a successful year, having been able to collaborate with several international organisations to boost Guyana’s manufacturing sector.

This was disclosed by GMSA President Shyam Nokta at the Association’s Annual General Meeting, which was held on Tuesday. During the virtual meeting, the new Board of Directors was elected and the President’s Report and Audited Financial Reports were presented to members.

Nokta, who has been President of the Association for the past three consecutive years, said that he took over leadership during a challenging period, as Guyana was grappling with the election crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Notwithstanding these challenges, under his leadership, the GMSA showed tremendous resilience and made significant accomplishments in the various sub-sectors, while focusing on strengthening the organisation and improving governance, strengthening collaboration with key stakeholders, supporting the membership, and undertaking key initiatives.

“As we look to the new year, notwithstanding the challenges of COVID 19, there is a high level of optimism in the Private Sector. Guyana is on the cusp of transformation never before seen. Growth is expected to quadruple and immense opportunities opened up for all Guyanese. As a business support organisation, the GMSA needs to organise ourselves for this growth, so we can be competitive not only at home but regionally and internationally,” Nokta said.

He, however, told members that perhaps the bigger challenge would be how “we ensure our economy remains diversified, how we support and strengthen traditional sectors even as we encourage a new sector into the economy, and how we reconcile oil and gas with green/low carbon development”.

According to him, this will continue to be the primary focus of the new Board.

One of the GMSA’s most notable accomplishments for the year were an ExxonMobil sponsorship to support the establishment of a web portal linking products and service providers in the agro-processing sector with potential clients nationally, regionally, and internationally.

GMSA was also able to secure a grant from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for the feasibility study of establishing a Consolidated Log Yard operation in Guyana.

It also collaborated with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and participated at the level of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) of Caricom, and the National Advisory Committee on External Negotiations (NACEN) to represent the interests of local manufacturers related to trade barriers.

The GMSA also collaborated with Triple C Consultancy and the University of the West Indies to offer several short courses in the area of agro-processing, aimed at building the capacity of agro-processors, farmers, and employees of agro-businesses.

There were also collaborations with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Guyana Development Initiative (GDI) to successfully host a webinar under the theme “Opportunities for Strengthening the Value Chain and Expanding Agriculture in a Post-COVID-19 Environment”.

According to the GMSA, the webinar was designed to bring together leaders in the Government, multilateral organisations, and the Private Sector, to share perspectives and experiences to identify actions to address key challenges which could set the stage for collaborative efforts.

The Association was also able to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Diaspora Global Network (UGDGN) to provide support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the areas of financing, market expansion, capacity building, and knowledge transfer.

The GMSA said that it was pleasing to see that many of its proposed measures were included in the National Budgets for 2020 and 2021.

In the meantime, 13 members were selected to serve for the year 2020-2021. The Board is expected to convene its first meeting within two weeks to elect the new executive, and formally install the new sub-sector chairs as part of the Board. The GMSA will formally introduce the new Board in the coming weeks after the new President and Vice President are elected.