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National Economic Summit planned; opposition involved

Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Ronald Webster.

Guyana’s opposition, government and the private sector hope to reach consensus on the country’s first Economic Summit.

The announcement was made by Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Ronald Webster at the umbrella business organisation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) held Tuesday at the Pegasus Hotel.

Webster said the political opposition was integrally involved in planning and participating in the forum scheduled for August, 2013.

“Members of the parliamentary opposition have been included and involved in the preparation of this event,” he said.

Addressing the AGM, Minister of Commerce and Industry Irfan Ali welcomed the idea of the Economic Summit, saying that it was aimed at securing national political ownership through partnership and dialogue.

He explained that the project steering committee of the National Competitiveness Strategy decided to involve the political opposition in planning the National Economic Summit.

“The National Economic Forum will discuss every single developmental issue and seek to form a consensus on the priorities for Guyana in the next ten years,” he said.

A number of pre-forum dialogues are slated to be held. Sub-committees would involve representatives from government, the opposition, experts and the private sector, he said.

In apparent reference to the combined opposition using its one-seat majority in the 65-seat House to vote down bills and cut the National Budget, the Commerce Minister argued that consensus could not be achieved based on political or governmental power. “It must be based on mutual respect and understanding of the various views after which a common view must emerge,” he said.

The forum comes at a time when A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) have been demanding government accountability and transparency in government spending on key sectors like sugar, electricity- both Guyana Power and Light and Amaila Falls Hydropower project- and the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.

The PSC Chairman identified the need for significant broadening of the economic base, increase in quality job creation, reduction in the migration of skilled persons and more effective access to and from export markets.“I again stress that Guyana is rapidly approaching the tipping point where continued economic growth could be stifle unless the planned capital programme goes forward as planned,” he said.

Despite bad experiences with development banks in the Caribbean, he said there was urgent need for such a financial institution to provide credit for small and medium scale businesses.

Webster was re-elected PSC Chairman at the AGM.

Mr. Ramesh Persaud of the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) was elected to the position of Vice Chairman while Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo of Banks DIH was elected as Secretary and Mr. John Willems of the Forest Products Association was elected as Treasurer, the PSC told the media.