Private Sector not taking full advantage of business opportunities created by govt – Pres Ali

0
President Dr Irfaan Ali joins GCCI President Timothy Tucker, ExxonMobil Guyana President Alistair Routledge and other officials on Friday to open the Business Development Forum 2022 at the Pegasus Corporate Centre

The Private Sector in Guyana came under fire from President Dr Irfaan Ali, who admonished stakeholders for not taking full advantage of the business opportunities that Government has unlocked especially with international partners.

He was at the time addressing the opening of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Business Development Forum 2022 at the Pegasus Corporate Centre in Georgetown on Friday. The event is being held under the theme: “Your Roadmap to Business Development” and it is geared at providing a platform for dialogue on various topics regarding the growth of businesses irrespective of their size.

The Head of State expressed his disappointment with the lack of action by the Private Sector to tap into the various opportunities being presented. He noted that while Government had the responsibility of unlocking and opening up opportunities, it was up to the Private Sector to capitalise on them.

“So, we just had UKIF (United Kingdom Investment Fund) here. UKIF is going to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars of investments here. UKIF financing does not come with a 100 per cent UK input, it comes with 20 per cent UK input. And they met with the Private Sector… You’re talking about supplies, and building a new supply chain of goods. How much of us will approach UKIF?

“At pains, we brought a Saudi Business Investor Group ready to form partnership. We were not ready with one single feasibility study or business plan to present… The Korean Group came, we were not ready with one business plan or feasibility study to present,” the President stated.

President Dr Irfaan Ali addressing the gathering

He went on to point to the US$100 million made available by Republic Bank Limited, through Caricom’s Sustainability Agriculture Credit Facility, for investments in the agricultural sector in the Region. The Head of State noted only a mere five proposals, which were piloted by him, have been submitted to access this financing.

“They have five proposals… all driven by President of Guyana from the Private Sector here. Not one single Private Sector entity came up with a feasibility study or proposal ready to present after the announcement of that special window,” he contended.

These remarks by President Ali on Thursday were made after GCCI President Timothy Tucker spoke about issues facing business development in Guyana such as access to financing.

Collective responsibility

In a further comment, the Head of State noted that he was nonetheless pleased that the Private Sector and the Government could identify challenges “and work on a stream of measures to ensure the highest levels of efficiency in Government, and the strengthening of the Private Sector to be robust enough to not only confront the challenges ahead but to do so successfully.”

He reiterated that the Government was prepared to provide the technical support, training and development to strengthen capacity, especially among small and medium sized businesses.

“We must share collective responsibility and burdens in achieving success.”

Access to finance

According to Tucker, the GCCI has been at the forefront of advocating for improved access to finance in the country since it is the only way that Guyanese businesses can adequately utilise the Local Content Act to their benefit.

“We must have access to finance to be able to play a significant role in the oil and gas sector and to realise our true potential of being the engine of growth …The President, Minister of Finance, the Private Sector have all called for better access to finance. We’ve looked at it. We’ve done surveys. The GCCI partnered with CLBD (Centre for Local Business Development) and did a survey, there is a need in the next 12 months for over US$112 million by 450 companies that responded to that survey… So, I just want to say the banks need to get up off of their tush and get to work because we really need access to finance,” the GCCI President stressed.

A section of the gathering at the opening of the Business Development Forum

But while acknowledging that accessing financing at local banks was indeed a humbug, President Ali, nonetheless, insisted that the Private Sector needed to be more proactive. To this end, he offered to put mechanisms in place to help locals prepare their business plans so that they were in a better position to capitalise on opportunities for financing.

“It’s easy to do a survey… how many of that 400-plus businesses that are ready for financing has a business plan and feasibility plan ready to be financed, I guarantee you is less than 15 per cent or 20 per cent… I am ready as your President to help put together a team to write those business planning feasibility studies for you. And once it pass the test, send people with you to the banks to negotiate… You see you are pushing at open doors,” the Head of State noted.

In fact, President Ali charged Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh to put together six professionals at the two-day Business Development Forum and work along with persons on their feasibility study or business proposal plans.

“I’m going to put [Republic Bank] on the spot. I’m going to put GBTI on the spot. I’m going to put Demerara Bank and all the others on the spot. And say to them, we’re going to get those feasibility studies and we’re going to form a team that the Minister of Finance will lead with you, and take you to the banks to present the proposals. Let’s walk this walk now,” the Guyanese Leader posited.

On the other hand, the GCCI has announced that at the end of the Forum, $300,000 will be given to a successful small business, for which the plan has to be submitted to the Chamber.

The Business Development Forum, which concludes today, also has an exhibition. ExxonMobil Guyana is the main sponsor.