Senior Finance Minister encourages BPOs to expand to other Regions -during visit to Teleperformance

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, September 20, 2021: As Government continues to strive towards ensuring the economy is diversified by creating an enabling environment to attract investment in a number of sectors, Senior Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh visited and toured ‘Teleperformance’ Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) facility on Camp Street where he met with its Chief Executive Officer, Luis Barreto. There, the Minister, CEO and other officials of the company discussed the company’s plans for expansion as well as ways in which Government can lend its support to allow for this. The Minister was accompanied by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Office for Investment, Dr. Peter Ramsaroop. The facility currently employs approximately 950 persons, fifty percent of whom work from within the facility and the remainder from their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the tour, the Senior Finance Minister lauded the efforts of the business’s founder who saw the potential for investment in Guyana and commenced operations in 2017. The business, even now in the current challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, has continued to enable the employment of hundreds of Guyanese, including young persons and single-parents. Minister Singh encouraged the business to strive to continue to assist in the development of the country through job-creation, noting that Government would also support any measure taken by the business to expand to other Regions of the country. The Minister alluded to the number of persons who travel from elsewhere in the country to work in Georgetown and suggested that businesses expanding to other areas is always welcome by communities as employees and other job-seekers usually prefer employment in closer proximity to their homes.

“Teleperformance is one of the largest BPOs worldwide with a phenomenal global footprint operating in literally every single continent of the world with an almost universal coverage so Teleperformance is exactly the kind of Company that when we initiated our work in introducing BPO operations and attracting BPO investors into Guyana-Teleperformance is exactly the type of company that we wanted to attract. Thus, we are extremely pleased to see that the company has come to Guyana, has established operations and has grown in the manner that it has,” Dr. Singh said.

Dr. Singh reiterated that the BPO sector has the potential to create jobs, generate income, spur economic activity and improve lives generally and it is why the People’s Progressive Party /Civic (PPP/C) Government has been (since its previous term in office) promoting Guyana as a destination for BPO business which proved to be a success. He also alluded to the current Irfaan- Ali led Government’s strong support for any effort by businesses which aligns with its vision of diversification of the economy which will also contribute to ensuring the country maintains a stable macro economic environment since it would be unwise for it to solely depend on its main sectors.

Meanwhile, during the Minister’s visit, the CEO gave a video presentation which portrayed Guyana as a unique and premier destination for BPO businesses, something which the Finance Minister said he was impressed with as it highlighted Guyana in a manner that Government would have wanted the country to be marketed in terms of its competitive advantages-as a premier, English Speaking country with highly-educated citizens ready for the world of work such as in the BPO industry.

“We see this sector creating thousands of jobs in Guyana and not a lot of people know what is happening in the BPO sector and as part of the series of these meetings, I have been having-one of my objectives was to raise public awareness of what’s happening in the sector,” the Senior Finance Minister emphasized.

“In the pre-2015 period, we had already recognized the vast potential for BPO service, and we had invested a lot of policy effort into the sector,” Minister Singh said, explaining that Teleperformance is the ideal example of what can be achieved by persons willing to invest in Guyana.

The Minister had echoed similar sentiments during his visits and tours of other BPO facilities recently.

He had referenced the fact that many businesses internationally are recognizing Guyana as a prime destination for BPO services especially with its English-speaking population, its educated workforce and its close proximity to the United States of America and Canada.

Teleperformance, located at Camp and Robb Streets, commenced its Guyana operations in October, 2017. The company on a global scale serves more than 170 markets and has a presence in 80 countries, providing services in technical support, customer acquisition, sales and consulting. Teleperformance Guyana plans to increase its employment number to 1,200 by year-end.

Senior Finance Minister outlines Guyana’s plans for economic transformation to IsDB Group Meetings in Uzbekistan

-Private sector to play pivotal role, Govt placing renewed focus on LCDS to combat Climate Change

–expresses gratitude to Bank for its continued support

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, September 3, 2021: During his presentation today while participating in the 2021 Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group’s Annual Meetings in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh congratulated the Government and people of Uzbekistan for the excellent arrangements put in place for the meetings, especially since they are taking place during the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senior Finance Minister also congratulated the current President of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Dr. Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser, who commenced duties last month. He also thanked his predecessor Dr. Bandar Hajjar for his commitment to the Bank and the IsDB’s support for Guyana’s development agenda during his tenure.

“We were very pleased to hear the new President’s inaugural address yesterday as he highlighted development priorities, such as social infrastructure and human capital development, stimulating domestic and high-valued foreign investments, digital transformation to secure greater resilience, building out infrastructure, environmental considerations, international climate commitments, regional integration and cooperation, and building fiscal buffers. These are all priorities that are acutely relevant to Guyana, “Dr. Singh said.

Alluding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Finance Minister reminded that it is wreaking havoc across the globe, sparing no country nor community while Policymakers worldwide have had to grapple with the human tragedy and economic trauma that the pandemic brought with it.

“In Guyana, as if the challenges of COVID-19 were not enough, we then had to contend with unprecedented flooding, as a result of extraordinary levels of rainfall since May this year, resulting in a national disaster declared. These floods caused the displacement of households and farmers and extensive damage to property, including farms, crops, and livestock. These floods have also brought into sharp focus Guyana’s continued vulnerability to climate risks,” he added.

The Senior Finance Minister then lauded the Bank’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Program (SPRP), which provided a total of US$4.5 billion of support to help member countries contain, mitigate, and recover from COVID-19. He noted, however, that despite this, the battle with COVID- 19 is far from over.

Dr. Singh told participants that Government, under the Leadership of President Irfaan Ali, has requested the reprogramming of previously approved funds and programming of new resources to
help Guyana strengthen its capacity to respond to any future extreme climatic events and to build more resilient infrastructure. Discussions are ongoing with the Bank on this, as Government aims to garner the required support while also ensuring that this support is delivered in the shortest possible time.

“We are also engaged in discussions with the Bank on several transformative projects, aimed at reinforcing our resilience and harnessing our untapped economic potential, particularly in the non- oil sector. We have already initiated discussions on many projects in the transport infrastructure sector with the Bank, including farm-to-market roads, which will open new arable land. Here again, timely conclusion of these discussions will help accelerate realisation of the outcomes targeted by these critical interventions,” The Senior Finance Minister explained.

Dr. Singh posited during his presentation that even as Guyana faces many immediate challenges the country still has bright and exciting opportunities ahead in its current momentous juncture of economic evolution.

“As one of the world’s newest oil producers, with the potential to become a significant supplier on the global scale, Guyana is poised for a dramatic structural shift in our economy. We intend to seize this moment to leapfrog the growing pains that new oil and gas producers suffer all too often, including by ensuring that we achieve and maintain a globally competitive non-oil economy from the very outset,” he emphasized.

The Senior Finance Minister then underscored the pivotal role Guyana’s Private Sector will play in the realization of the country’s transformation, both at the domestic and international levels.

“While Government will maintain a supportive environment and will invest in supportive infrastructure, the bulk of the economic growth will be driven by private investment and Guyana abounds with opportunity today for the private sector. In this regard, the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC), and International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) all have important mandates. We look forward to these private sector-oriented entities within the IsDB Group playing a demonstrably bigger role in Guyana, and indeed in all other member countries, in the immediate future, Minister Singh said.

He also alluded to several policies put in place by Government in the past, which are being once again brought to the fore in the country’s fight against Climate Change such as the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

“Even as we become an oil and gas producer, Guyana prides itself as a global leader in the fight against climate change. The preservation of our pristine rainforest over generations has enabled us to make a disproportionate contribution to the global climate effort today. In 2008, we published what we believe was the first LCDS for a developing country. On the basis of that strategy, we partnered in 2009 with Norway in the world’s third largest international forest partnership to create the capabilities needed to integrate Guyana’s forest climate services within international carbon and other markets,” the Senior Finance Minister further emphasized.

On this note, he disclosed that the Government of Guyana is now working on a new and expanded LCDS which aims to ensure that Guyana’s standing forests are adequately remunerated for the global climate services they provide, adding that the expanded LCDS will also encompass the blue economy for the first time so that Guyana can also harness full benefit of its vast marine resources in a sustainable manner.

“Guyana stands ready to share with the IsDB family our experience with economic development along a low carbon trajectory, and to work with the Bank to build a stronger coalition around the critical environmental and climate issues of our time,” Dr. Singh concluded as he reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to working closely with the Bank and fellow members to advance economic development in all the countries.

The IsDB Group’s 2021 Annual Group Meetings (which also saw the presence of His Excellency Sardor Umurzakov, Chairman of the IsDB’s Board of Governors, along with other High-Level officials from around the world) are expected to wrap up on September 4.

Senior Finance Minister in Uzbekistan attending IsDB Meetings

Expected to ramp up more support for development projects in Guyana:

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, September 1, 2021: In continuing to advance Guyana's development trajectory, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh is currently attending the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group’s Annual Meetings in Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan. Guyana’s delegation attending the meetings also includes First Secretary and Charge d’Affaires at
Guyana’s Embassy in Kuwait, Safraaz Shadood. The meetings, taking place from September 1 to September 4, will see the IsDB’s Boards of Governors and General Assemblies discussing development, economic and financial issues along with institutional matters. Guyana became a member of the IsDB in 2016 making it the 57th country and the second from Latin America after Suriname to join the Bank.

The meetings of the Bank would usually attract over 2000 participants and the IsDB has noted that the Annual Meetings offer an ideal platform for decision-makers to discuss challenges and explore IsDB Group member countries’ economic and developmental opportunities. It was also noted that during the Annual Meetings, ‘participants benefit from various knowledge-sharing and flagship events which feature top-level panelists from governments, international and regional organizations, private sector, academia, and civil society’. Additionally, the Bank pointed out that the knowledge- sharing events programme provides a dynamic platform to discuss economic financial and development issues of current interest to IsDB Group member countries and their partners, while they also aim to encourage discussions and debates, promote partnerships, cooperation, and exchange experiences.

After his Assumption to office in August 2020, President Irfaan Ali met with President of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Dr. Bandar Hajjar, and had discussions on financing for solar energy, agriculture, infrastructure, small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) and measures in the fight against COVID-19. Then, in June last, following the unprecedented flooding of several
areas in Guyana, the IsDB committed to mobilizing support for the country in terms of critical intervention measures following another meeting between its President and the Head of State. The IsDB President had assured (following that meeting) that the Bank would make all efforts to support Guyana’s rebuilding efforts and enable more resilient infrastructure.

Earlier this month, the Government applied for financial support from the IsDB for the Hinterland Electrification Programme. It was pointed out that some funding would be used to target the construction and rehabilitation of two small hydropower plants in Lethem Region Nine.

Finance Minister tours Midas BPO Inc.

Lauds CEO on remarkable success as 330 jobs created over the last 12 months

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, August 24, 2021: Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni K. Singh today visited Midas Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Inc., located on New Market Street, Georgetown, where he lauded the efforts of the business’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr. Malcolm Sobers on pursuing his vision, which eventually materialized into a successful BPO facility in Guyana. The businessman currently employs 330 Guyanese, and his business is heading towards expansion soon. Mr. Sobers, a Guyanese, who started as a young employee himself in 2001 (later becoming a consultant then proprietor), indicated that he intends to employ at least 1000 persons by the end of 2021 or soonest. His business has branches located at Grove, East Bank Demerara as well as on Lombard Street currently. However, by the end of this month, he will consolidate the branch at Lombard Street with the newly set up one at New Market Street.

Midas BPO Inc. is a Contact Centre/BPO company with its Founder, Mr. Sobers having approximately 20 years of experience in Call-Centre operations both in Guyana and in Belize, where he had lived for some time and assisted the industry through consultancy work. In Belize, he started working on his vision of his own BPO business with just four agents employed back in 2014. The business grew to between 60 to 70 employees and, Mr. Sobers decided to return to his homeland to take up consultancy work in 2019. In August 2020, he commenced his operations in Guyana during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting out with a few agents working from home. The rest became history, but it was 20 years of gradual success for Mr. Sobers who started as a youth in the industry and even met his now wife, Mrs. Sobers, also working in a BPO Call Centre at the time. Midas BPO Inc. presently employs approximately 330 agents while its Founder still maintains operations in Belize.

During the visit, the Finance Minister described Mr. Sobers’ story (of spending all of his working life in the industry and later becoming a proprietor himself) as a remarkable one, and one which others can emulate, as it highlights that the sector has unique possibilities for success and growth for each agent. He noted, therefore, that it should not be taken lightly and is partly why his Government intends to continue working with the sector to ensure its continued growth, as this will allow for the creation of thousands of jobs and the generation of income for many families. He also emphasized that the visit is in keeping with the PPP/C Government’s larger vision of diversifying the Guyanese economy and ensuring that there is a dynamic economic base.

The Finance Minister, who was accompanied on the visit by GOINVEST's Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Peter Ramsaroop, encouraged the enthusiastic proprietor to expand his operations to other Regions of Guyana, which Mr. Sobers indicated he fully intends to do.

The Senior Finance Minister’s visit was part of a recent series of visits to BPO facilities as Government continues its path of economic diversification, part of which includes promoting Guyana as a premier destination for BPO business.

‘Today’s occasion illustrates that which is possible’-Finance Minister says as new Surinamese Optical store launched in Guyana

Lauds company for its interest and investment in Guyana

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, August 19, 2021: As Guyana and Suriname’s bilateral talks continue, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh today in delivering remarks at the launch of a new Surinamese optical store, Optiek Ninon on Camp Street in Georgetown, said Guyana is fully open for business as he lauded the Surinamese company for its investment in Guyana and simultaneously urged Guyanese companies to expand beyond Guyana’s border and invest in Suriname as he alluded to the fact that both countries’ Presidents have expressed similar interests during their discussions.

“At this very moment, Presidents Ali and Santokhi are meeting at the Pegasus Hotel with the private sectors of Guyana and Suriname discussing the incredibly exciting opportunities that there are for greater private sector expansion from the cross border perspective…and it must be a fortuitous and particularly special coincidence that the opening of this store is happening at a time when the Governments and the private sectors of our two countries are meeting to discuss what you have demonstrated is possible and doable,” Minister Singh said addressing the business’ representatives at the launch.

He added that the launch was symbolic as well because while Guyana and Suriname have been neighbours for time immemorial and while there has been movement of people back and forth across the Corentyne River, the economic potential of that proximity has not nearly realized the fullness of its potential.

“President Irfaan Ali could not be more emphatic in his conviction that the private sector will be the driver of economic growth and transformation. Internally, in our respective countries we are committed to making every aspect of doing business easier and simpler, and right now work is ongoing to identify ways in which bureaucratic processes can be simplified,” Minister Singh emphasized.

Meanwhile Suriname’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation, Mr. Albert Ramdin, while congratulating the Company on its fiftieth anniversary, expressed satisfaction that a business in his country had grown and expanded its brand in Guyana.

“This is the first branch in Georgetown. Establishing Optiek Ninon in Guyana is kind of a branding of Suriname as well. We take that as a value that we should not underestimate. We strongly believe that these two markets must be seen as one single market. We have to expand that market-it creates business opportunities, it creates opportunities for growth, investment and employment,” the Surinamese Minister said, then further expressed the hope that Guyanese businesses will also expand and open their doors in
Suriname to create opportunities as well for his country.

Optiek Ninon is a leading optical business in Suriname with over fifty years of experience and six branches in that country. The new store in Guyana is its seventh and first multinational branch. The business’ Founder was the late Ninon Brunings who opened her first store in Suriname in 1971. According to the business’s representatives, Ms. Ninon’s goal and passion was to make good eyesight and good quality glasses accessible to everyone.

They expressed their enthusiasm and excitement at having ventured to Guyana to open the business’ doors and lauded Guyanese for their hospitality and welcoming spirit during the time they spent here making arrangements for the business start-up. The Company has also employed a number of Guyanese as part of its team.

Gov’t to repair critical hinterland roads-Finance Minister

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, August 17, 2021: Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni K. Singh today indicated that Government is allocating funds to address the damages to critical hinterland roads and to effect urgent repairs to these major ingress and egress points to the hinterland regions.

Dr. Singh alluded to specific roads such as the Bartica to Potaro road and the Itaballi to Puruni road in Region 7, which are major arteries in providing access for critical economic activities such as mining and forestry. As a result of flooding recently, these roads sustained severe damage hindering the passage of goods and services to the Regions and affecting productive activity especially in the mining and forestry sectors.

Additionally, funds are being made available to effect repairs to the Lethem-Annai road in the North Repununi (Region # 9) which also suffered damage as a result of flooding in the last few months.

In the 2021 Budget, in support of agriculture, Government removed the VAT on heavy machinery and equipment and reduced land rental charges reverting them to the levels they were in 2014.

More recently as well, the current administration announced further interventions aimed at relieving the suffering which farmers and households endured as a result of the May-June 2021 floods. The Finance Minister noted that the payout of the $7.8 billion package of assistance to these farmers and households to assist in recovery and bolster production will commence ‘during the course of this week’.

Cash transfers will provide strong economic stimulus-says Finance Minister

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, August 17, 2021: Following on the heels of President Irfaan Ali’s announcement last evening of three additional measures of a one-off cash grant of $25,000 to all old age pensioners, another one-off grant of $25,000 to all public assistance recipients and persons living with disabilities and an electricity credit to be paid to the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Company on behalf of households consuming not more than 75 kilowatt hours per month, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh in explaining the $2. 6 Billion worth of measures, noted that these all formed part of Government’s aim at providing additional support to the most vulnerable while also stimulating economic activities which will contribute to economic growth in all sectors. The Minister contrasted his Government’s focus to the mandate of the former A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance for Change’s (APNU/AFC’s) which included punitive taxes to generate more funds which were ironically spent wastefully. He also lamented the former administration’s lack of an economic vision except to wait on the oil and gas sector to take off.

“We have delivered in one year far more than they delivered in five years. Consider that what we have done is 1. Reduce taxes on the things that matter the most to people and 2. Deliver support to people at a level that cumulatively, over the five-year period that the APNU/AFC were in Government, did not deliver,” the Finance Minister said.

As to how the various cash grants and other measures will be sustainable on a long term basis coupled with the reduction in taxes, the Senior Finance Minister explained that the interventions may seem like an immediate cost to the treasury but that these measures will in fact stimulate more economic activities, provide a boost to various sectors and even create more jobs.

“When you reduce taxes and reduce the cost of doing business, or when you deliver support to households, that money doesn’t vanish into thin air, it stimulates economic activity. So, by reducing the cost of construction- you stimulate home construction activity, by reducing the cost of mining activities or the cost of agriculture, by removing taxes on heavy equipment, you stimulate economic activity. So, while there may be an immediate or short-term fiscal cost, the real impact is in the stimulation of economic activity that then generates jobs that then generates incomes,” Minister Singh confidently posited.

He explained further that when direct cash transfers are provided for various groups such as to parents of school-aged children, pensioners or public assistance beneficiaries, these citizens in turn use their cash grants in the markets, supermarkets and shops.

“They buy some goods with it (basic necessities), they go to the shops, they go to the service- providers, and it then multiplies itself over in the economy. The person in the market gets more sales, they then (with such sales) go to the wholesaler and they buy more. The wholesaler then goes to the manufacturer and he or she buys more, and more economic activity is stimulated,” the Senior Finance Minister further added.

Alluding to the flood relief interventions recently announced by Government, while the Minister noted that this will commence during the course of this week, he added that all of these measures are part of Government’s efforts at enabling a sustainable economic environment allowing for the growth of new emerging sectors while placing additional income into the hands of citizens.

Further elaborating on the Governing styles of the current government as against the former, Minister Singh concluded that there are three clear distinctions with the first being that the former administration had no long-term economic vision except to wait on the oil sector to take off. He said the second distinction is that the current government, unlike the former, continues to be on the ground actually working. The Finance Minister added that the third distinction was that the composition of the Budgets of both administrations showed a clear difference with the current Government focusing on reorienting the National Budgets so that allocations are injected into areas which really matter and can sustain long term economic growth as against the former Government’s wasteful spending on ‘inconsequential, inefficient and less productive areas’, despite raising taxes and collecting additional revenue from citizens.