Businessman Edward (Eddie) Boyer has been re-elected unopposed as Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) at that body’s twenty-fifth Annual General Meeting (AGM) held at the Georgetown Marriott International Hotel on Thursday. A new executive has also been elected to serve for fiscal year 2017-2018.
Shipping executive Desmond Sears was re-elected Vice-Chairman, while past Chairman, Major General (ret’d) Norman McLean, was elected Secretary, and finance expert Fitzroy McLeod was re-elected unopposed as Treasurer.
In his address prior to the election, Boyer recalled the economic challenges the country was experiencing when he took office for the first time in 2016. He said that while the growth in the economy was in the vicinity of 3%, growth in the economy slowed during the period 2016/2017, and businesses were feeling the burden.
“A number of additional and increased taxation was placed on individuals, thus reducing disposable income…Remittances also slowed tremendously. While these were factors for a catastrophe waiting to happen, Government and business worked together to stem the tide of despair,” Boyer told the gathering.
He said that while the PSC was satisfied with Budget 2016 — its efforts to restore investor confidence and support a vibrant economy, it was disappointed in a few areas, among them being the small increase in the personal tax threshold, which could have been increased significantly to provide relief to low income earners.
“The 2017 Budget, presented in 2016 in an historic move, reduced VAT from 16% to 14% but introduced VAT on water and electricity, both essential services and both of which measures were decried by the PSC. The introduction of VAT on private education was also a blow to many parents and to those seeking to further their education, and the Commission maintains that the social impact of such policies should be carefully considered before their imposition,” the PSC chairman said.
He said the Commission had engaged the Vice-President of the European Development Bank in discussions on the possibility of financing the local private sector, as access to finance remained a major challenge. He said the need for a Development Bank and the possibility of the EIB financing this was also discussed.
Meanwhile, State Minister Joseph Harmon debunked all misconceptions that there was a feud between Government and the PSC. The minister had joined a cadre of other Government officials and members of the diplomatic corps to celebrate the PSC’s anniversary.
Harmon said the perception of a feud between Government and the PSC must be erased, as Government stands committed to efforts and contribution of the umbrella body for businesses in Guyana.
He said the sector has institutionalised regular meetings with the Ministers of Finance, Business and Natural Resources. However, what is needed of Government, Private Sector and other stakeholders, including the Opposition, is the creation of an enabling environment to attract investors.
“I have already alluded to the strategic position of the Private Sector Commission to the nation’s development, and I wish to debunk here the perception, or suggestion, that the Government views the Private Sector Commission with hostility, and that there is a feud between the Government and the Private Sector,” Harmon said.
He said his government had to confront the enormous problems it had inherited, such as the existence of an illusionary economy which, according to him, hindered development of Guyana’s productive sector and sidelined legitimate businesses.
Towards the end of the formal programme, former chairmen of the PSC: Yesu Persaud, Beni Sankar, Manniram Prashad, Peter De Groot, retired Major General Norman Mc Lean and Ramesh Dookhoo were given awards for their exemplary service to the business organisation.