Published On: Thu, Jun 16th, 2016

Corruption and red tape raised at Guyana investment forum in NYC

investment_conference2NEW YORK - At the just concluded “Guyana Means Business” investment conference in New York City last Friday, many participants raised the issue of corruption and red tape that frustrated the efforts to invest in Guyana during the previous administration.

Investors were very vocal that they will not engage in bribing in their efforts to invest in Guyana. Instead of having to bribe officials and wait forever to set up a business in Guyana, they should be appreciated and given all the support to invest in their homeland.

They pleaded with top officials from the government of Guyana who were in NYC at the conference to avoid corruption, show transparency and hasten the investment process.

CEO of Travelspan, Nohar Singh and Dr Glendon Archer, CEO of Metallica Commodities, told Guyanese officials present at the meeting that “the nice talks and promises they made in NYC” must translate in tangible realties when they go to Guyana.

However, skepticism still remains and investors are closely watching the government to see if it will fulfil its promises.

Singh said, “I don’t want to bribe. I can see that this government is open to business.”

Vice president and minister of public security, Khemraj Ramjattan; David Patterson, public infrastructure; minister of business, Dominic Gaskin; and Cathy Hughes, minister of tourism and communications, made various presentations at the forum to attract investors.

The private sector was represented by Gerry Gouveia and, to emphasize the government’s push for education and skills, Dr Ivelaw Griffith, vice-chancellor of the University of Guyana, participated in the forum. Patricia Bacchus, who is also from the private sector, was very confident and knowledgeable in marketing Guyana to the public.

The United States also demonstrated a renewed interest in Guyana. Tom Radke, Desk Officer for the Southern Caribbean, attended the investment forum, took a lot of notes and stayed almost the entire time. He described the US-Guyana relationship as "friendly".

The ministers emphasised that the David Granger government is committed to transparency. And CEO of Go-Invest, Owen Verwey, promised investors a “one stop” agency where they can execute a business in Guyana in a short period of time.

When asked about the lack of transparency and slow pace to set up a business in Guyana, which has frustrated investors, Salaudeen Nausrudeen, conference manager and co-founder of Guyana-America Investments (GAIN), said, “Steps are being taken; there is a general mood by officials of Go-Invest and the ministry of business to fix the bureaucracy, opening and clearer definition of investable sectors, lack of finance, skills shortage, regulations and corruption. The World Bank is assisting in these areas.”

According to Francisco Carneriro, a World Bank representative at the conference, the Granger-led government “has accepted all World Bank programs to assist Guyana which the previous government declined.” This, the government claims, will help address issues of skills, finance, corruption and regulations.

Ramjattan meticulously shared his government’s anti-crime sweep, which has resulted in a 25 percent drop in crime since the new administration took office a year ago. As well, Ramjattan revealed that his government has accepted human capital, new technologies and training from the ABC countries (America, Britain and Canada) plus India and China to arrest the crime situation in Guyana. He also added that his government will use drones in his war against crime.

Ramjattan also reminded the audience that, under this government, the United States Drug Enforcement Authority (DEA) now has an office in Guyana.

The conference was well attended by an even number of Guyanese and American investors. There was also an equal number of Afro and Indo Guyanese participants at the event.

By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now

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