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Guyana’s private sector must help gov’t push down CARICOM trade barriers- Pres. Ali

Last Updated on Wednesday, 2 December 2020, 22:30 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali addressing the 2020 Awards Ceremony of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association

Even as a newly-formed Caribbean Manufacturing Association (CMA) plans to explore the production of specialised sugars, Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali on Wednesday called on local manufacturers to aggressively remove trade barriers in the Caribbean Community’s Single Market.

Addressing the 2020 awards of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) at State House, Dr. Ali urged that private sector organisation to play its part in ensuring there is free trade in CARCOM as Guyana seeks to become more competitive. “Your engagement with CARICOM must be bold. It is time you break down the barriers to trade. It is time we stake our place and, whilst we have the capacity and will invest in food security, the private sector needs to push hard on all the barriers that prevent our goods and services from entering a free market, an open market, a unified market in CARICOM,” said Dr. Ali, a former Trade Minister.

Guyana has for decades been complaining bitterly to CARICOM about non-tariff barriers, disguised as plant and animal health rules,  to its honey, ice cream as well as pineapples and other fruits, vegetables, and ground provisions  in a number of member states

The President appealed to the private sector to work with government in removing trade barriers at a time when several initiatives are being pursued to integrate local private sector with multinational large-scale investors in the areas of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, mining and business tourism. “This not only a duty for the government. This is a responsibility for the private sector. The private sector, the manufacturing association must see themselves as integral. They have an integral role to play , an integral part to play, not a complaining role or a complaining part,” he said.

Dr. Ali sought to reinforce the point that the People’s Progressive Party Civic-led administration is pro-business, saying this is being reflected in their representation State boards and leading the dialogue on local content.

He hinted that “in the coming year”, the groundwork would be unveiled for collaboration and integration with the aim if rebalancing the economy to boost value-added production, innovation and greater competitiveness. He urged Guyanese businesses to evolve their ownership structures as part of preparations for the Caribbean and extra-regional markets. “You have to come together. You have to form consortiums. The family approach to business will fast disappear with the scale of opportunities that will come and the only way we can benefit from the scale of opportunities to come is  if we understand that we have to work together. We have to work together to improve our competitiveness. We have to work together to improve our competitive strength and we have to work together to increase our market share not only in Guyana but first of all in CARICOM and then beyond,” he said.

Plans, he said, include ensuring there is cheaper energy through the right mix of fossil fuel and renewable sources, the establishment of a hospitality institute,  and the granting of 20,000 scholarships to build the human resource capacity of Guyanese. The President also announced plans to establish a world-class oil and gas training institute to train people in the sector from across the Caribbean.

Sugar in Caribbean manufacturing

The President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), Shyam Nokta announced that his entity and five other regional manufacturing organisations from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia and Dominica last week signed a memorandum of understanding in the presence of their countries’ portfolio ministers to cooperate on a range of matters including sugar. “Among the immediate priorities are front-of-label packaging and maximising opportunities for utilisation of sugar from the region through specialisation,” said Mr. Nokta at the GMSA awards.

Belize, Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados are the four remaining Caribbean sugar producers.

The GMSA has already frowned on the quality and suitability of the use of Plantation White sugar as a substitute for refined sugar. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) had funded a study last year to ascertain whether Plantation White can be a substitute for refined sugar.

Last month, the Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation, Sasenarine Singh said the state-owned entity hoped to eventually produce other value-added products such as glucose, liquid sugar, distilled sugar, industrial grade  and white sugar and agro-heritage tourism services.  He has noted that there is a Caribbean market for 200,000 tons of refined market and 20,000 tons in Guyana.

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December 2020