Transcript of address by Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin at the World Accreditation Day 2016 Symposium

Minister Gaskin: I would like to thank the organizers for organizing and the participants for participating in today’s forum in commemoration of World Accreditation day 2016 under the theme Accreditation- A global tool to support public policy.

Just to temper your expectations right from the start, I should let you know that I am not the technical person here and therefore I will not be sharing with you any new and exciting insights into the world of accreditation and beyond.

I’m sure the other presenters are more than capable of capturing and maintaining your attention on the nuts and bolts of accreditation.

So instead I will be sharing with you some more general thoughts on standards in Guyana and how these are important for businesses and why the Ministry of Business is eager to promote the use of standards by companies doing business in Guyana.

Of the Ministry of Business’ five main strategic goals, two relate directly to the work of the Guyana National Bureau of Standards. The first is the supporting the development of exports and value-added industries; and the second is to attract increased foreign investments in our economy.

If we are going to get serious about developing our value-added industries then we have to start looking at export markets. The reason is simple. Our domestic market size is too small to support the development and sustainable growth of a competitive manufacturing sector.

But once we start looking at export markets we will have to ensure that what we produce meets all the requirements of the jurisdictions to which we wish to export.

Some of those requirements are specified in standards many of which are globally harmonized, though some are not. But once we understand the requirements of the target market we then have to produce to their specifications.

It therefore becomes important to be able to measure the quality of what we produce against the level of quality that is required so that we can be confident that we are meeting those requirements.
And this is why the countries with strong manufacturing industries are the countries which have some sort of institutional framework in place for assessing the quality of what they produce.

As in everywhere else in the world, the development of our manufacturing sector will hinge on the presence of an effective national quality infrastructure in Guyana.

This means having in place facilities and systems for sampling, testing, verifying and certifying what is produced. But even if we have all of this in place and our manufacturers can get their products certified, we still need to go one step further and provide some sort of assurance as to the validity of the certification. Anyone can print a certificate these days.

And this is where accreditation enters the picture. It is perhaps the most important component of the national quality infrastructure because proper accreditation puts us on the same level with other countries when it comes to the certification that we provide. This allows us to compete on a slightly more level playing field.

In fact it allows us to compete, period!

And the extra time and cost for testing to be done overseas simply because most of our facilities are not accredited also places a burden on our businesses.

As a growing economy looking to advance and compete, Guyana needs to correct this now.

In that regard there is a project currently being contemplated within the Ministry of Business to improve our national quality infrastructure in order to better facilitate export promotion.

This project will not only focus on strengthening the public sector laboratories but on developing the entire national network of laboratories with a focus on training and accreditation.

I mentioned earlier that one of our Ministry’s main strategic goals is to attract increased foreign investments in our economy. If we are going to attract foreign investments to Guyana, then generating investor confidence has to be a priority.

Our Government sees manufacturing and value-added industries as critical to the diversification of Guyana’s economy and we welcome foreign investments in these areas.

However, companies will not leave places where a sound quality infrastructure exists to come to a place where it is not adequate for their industries. At the very least they will expect similar systems to be available.

These similarities can only be expressed or measured through the common language of accreditation. So again we see the importance of accreditation in the bigger national picture.

So yes! Accreditation- A global tool to support public policy.

Great theme!

In concluding, I’d like to say it is good that representatives from the private sector will be participating in today’s forum.

This is an indicator that the private sector appreciates the importance of standards in Guyana and understands how quality assessment can benefit our businesses and our country as a whole.

For a long time there has been an edgy relationship between those whose job it is to promote the use of standards and those who should be using these standards.

We in Guyana have not had very good experiences with systems and we have lost faith in any system that is introduced, especially by the Government and its institutions.

New systems are often seen as yet another way for the public sector to bully the private sector into submission or to extract bribes and other favours.

And it works both ways since those who do not embrace the system are then regarded as cheats and scamps by agents of the state.

Either way there will always be skepticism but this should not daunt our resolve to develop and promote the use of standards as a tool for developing businesses and enhancing our nation’s competitiveness.

And so it is my hope that this relationship between the public and private sectors in Guyana will evolve into a solid partnership that allows us to fully develop and exploit a national quality infrastructure that has all the necessary accreditation’s to certify our products for international markets.