Finance Minister, Winston Jordan railed against the sale of bottled Jamaican water at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and at the same time defended the hiring of Chinese companies to point out that Guyanese are not doing enough to take advantage of business opportunities but still complain.
“I don’t want to hear anything more about our national airport selling water from Jamaica. I don’t care how we are Caricom (Caricom) brothers, we must be our brothers and keepers first, first, first,” he said in wrapping up debate on the 2018 National Budget. “I am ashamed that you could walk in a store at your international airport and you cannot even find one bottle of local water in The Land of Many Waters.”
He expressed grave concern that no local water from Banks DIH or Demerara Distillers Limited was being sold at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. “What is wrong with us and we are talking about local content. There is no water tasting better than Banks DIH and DDL water and I refuse to drink foreign water not unless I am out of the country,” he said. Similarly, he said he recalled attending a private sector event in Berbice where water from Suriname was made available to invitees.
In apparent reference to private sector players that usually invite him to deliver speeches, he said nothing locally made is available at those events.
Calling for Guyana to return to the 1970s when Guyana produced local foods, the Finance Minister said government has increased its allocation to stimulate and develop small businesses aimed at increasing employment.
The Finance Minister said he fully supports local content to facilitate the involvement of Guyanese businesses in the provision of goods and services. However, he said even the best local content legislation was no guarantee if the local companies could not provide products with the required specifications or skilled and qualified persons.
Jordan chided “a certain class of people” to form partnerships with those who have the cash, technology and human capacity to compete with others who have years of experience. “We have to creep before we walk so form partnerships with these people who know so you could get a toe into the business, learn the business, accept the technology transfer, gain some financing before you can get out on your own,” he said.
Touching on the continued involvement of Chinese companies in major infrastructure projects in Guyana, the Finance Minister gave an explanation that was almost identical to then Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington when the then government had been fiercely criticised for contracting a Chinese company to build the Marriott Hotel with few Guyanese nationals being employed.
“If the Chinese companies are coming and winning the bids, what can you do. Is not to throw up your hands. These firms are bringing a level of technology that we don’t have. They are bringing a level of efficiency that we don’t have. Let’s call a spade, a spade. A typical example is the Marriott. At what stage the Marriott would have been today if it was being built by a local company. This is not chastising the local company. This is a reality situation.”
The Finance Minister issued a passionate call for Guyanese to “come off of our laurels” in the public and private sectors and work hard for what they want because there are no handouts. “Nobody is going to hand us anything anymore. We have to go out there and work for what we want,” he said.
The 2018 National Budget ended Friday night, paving the way for the consideration of the estimates of expenditure next week.