The first few months for the new Ministry of Business was rough, due to the lack of policies and human resources, however, the ministry was able to begin working towards many of its goals, according to subject Minister, Dominic Gaskin.
The Ministry was faced with a number of challenges, the main one being the lack of policies and guidelines. Despite being a ministry which has emerged from an existing one; the subvention agencies/departments remain the same. However, the lack of clear policy for these facilities posed a challenge to the staff.
The Minister explained that the task of planning various activities would have been much easier had there been clear policies in place.
The Ministry also had to function for several months without a Permanent Secretary (PS) due to the crossing over of the former PS to the Tourism Ministry. This impacted the administrative aspects of the Ministry.
Determined to maximize its potential in the short budget year; the Ministry developed a five-point plan. This strategy outlined the five main target areas of the Ministry’s focus for until 2020: improving the ease of doing business in Guyana – making the economy more attractive and creating easier means of doing business transaction countrywide; attracting more foreign investments-including improving services at Go-Invest; increasing exports and value added production; increasing opportunities for the most vulnerable-by increasing investment and job opportunities for both communities and individuals in all 10 administrative regions, and making the Ministry more relevant by increasing its influence over the country’s economic development.
A draft of the strategy was completed, but has been held back for fine tuning. This development of the draft includes inputs from stakeholders by way of consultation.
Minister Gaskin, along with his team has been able to attend and conduct several meetings with both local and international investors.
The Business Minister said, “it was very heartening to see the level of interest from the diaspora…these were people who had real business proposals…who have business experience and expertise and who didn’t necessarily need to come to Guyana or invest in Guyana, but who wanted to…who saw opportunities in Guyana that we ourselves did not see.”
He added that overseas companies who were interested in the Ministry sector were very aggressive and displayed great knowledge of the local mining sector. These meetings have resulted in follow-up sessions with the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest), along with the Public Infrastructure Ministry.
Small and Micro Business
Since taking up office, Minister Gaskin has been placing great emphasis on small and micro scale business development. This has resulted in numerous business owners accessing financing for the establishment or expansion of their businesses.
Also in order to foster improvements in the trading environment in Guyana, the Ministry will be involved in laying the foundation for a Single Window Automated Processing System (SWAPS).
A Credit Guarantee Scheme, administering an Interest Payment Facility (IPF) for micro loans through Partner Micro Financial Institutions will be put in place, in addition to the administering of the Low Carbon Grant Scheme for working capital and asset acquisition for micro and small businesses.
Moreover, the Ministry through its Small Business Bureau plans to advance the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) 20 percent procurement initiative as early as 2016, so that SMEs can have a fair chance of being awarded Government contracts.
Further, the ministry also hosted its first Business exposition; which did serve its purpose well, allowing more than 300 small businesses to partner and or expand through follow -up partnerships.
The year 2016 will see the Ministry of Business making greater strides towards national development, as it will seek to improve the ease of doing business as measured by the World Bank’s‘Doing Business Index’. It will boost value added exports by assisting manufacturers to become more export ready; increase the number of small businesses accessing services and credit through the Small Business Bureau; reform GO-Invest; and increase the transparency of regulatory policies.
The ministry will also be placing great emphasis on the completion of several projects inherited from the previous administration. These include the completion of the Lethem industrial Estate. This project has commenced approximately 10 years ago, but is still incomplete.
However, some additional consideration will have to be given to the design of the estate, since the vision and design was done such a long time ago, and may not be to modern standards.
In addition, Ministry will also be focusing on the completion of other projects including the plantation chip factories and the two call centers.