Green Guyana Expo
& International Small Business Summit
(Theme: Sustainable Economic Growth through Small Business Innovation, Entrepreneurship and transformative Government Policies)
Address by Hon. Winston Jordan Minister of Finance
Hon Vice Presidents Ramjattan and Allicock
Other Ministers of the Government and Members of Parliament
Members of the Head Table
Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corp
Representatives of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Boys and Girls:
I am honoured to have been invited to address you at the opening of this inaugural Green Guyana Expo and International Small Business Summit – the first of its kind to be held in Guyana. At the outset, let me congratulate the organisers of this event, especially the indefatigable Eric Philips, who has been relentless in his pursuit to ensure the realization of this event. As he would have indicated, it was in January of this year when he led a three-person team to my office to sell the Green Expo and Summit. I readily came on board – of course, at a cost.
I would also like to extend greetings and a warm welcome to everyone, in particular, our visitors from other climes. Your presence here today is a reflection of your desire to be an active participant in the agenda of this Expo and Summit. I enjoin you to use the opportunity of your presence in Guyana to see some of our sites and to share in the convivial atmosphere for which we are famous. Special recognition goes out, too, the many school children who are in attendance. I want to commend the organisers for inviting them to this Opening Ceremony. Youths are our present and our future. Exposure such as this can only redound to their and our benefit.
Mr. Chairman, this Expo and Summit brings together business experts from Guyana and around the world to educate and inspire local businesses to adopt new strategies and good practices that are necessary to build business resilience and competitiveness. I also expect that this summit will discuss extensively, emerging trends and practices in the green business realm. Let me also state that the convening of this Expo and Summit is another testimony of the Government charting the path to help small businesses to grow and compete successfully.
The theme for this Expo and Summit is “Sustainable Economic Growth through Small Business Innovation, Entrepreneurship and transformative Government Policies”. At this juncture of our development, when Guyana awaits the arrival of first oil, in early 2020, this theme is most apt. This event is being held at a time when the Government is developing, altering and/ or otherwise shifting national policies and investments to reflect a Green Development Agenda. Indeed, since the presentation of our first Budget, in 2015, under the theme, “A Fresh Approach to the Good Life in a Green Economy,” our Government has been pursuing, systematically, a model of development that will be characterized as green, climate-resilient and sustainable. This novel approach will see the use of funds derived from the exploitation of our oil and gas resources to finance the Green Economy. We aim to avoid the pitfalls of many developing countries, including some of our neighbours, who are experiencing serious macroeconomic imbalances and structural disruptions to their economies because of the volatility of oil prices.
In June 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was convened, and dealt extensively with the benefits of a “Green Economy”. Since then, a number of governments have adopted, as a matter of priority, economic diversification and expansion that is guided by a green agenda. It is believed that this initiative produces more inclusive economic growth and prepares countries to better address external challenges, such as economic volatility and climate change. And so, it is in this context, that the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana remains resolute in the formulation of the Green State Development Strategy, which will guide long-term planning – to position the country to better address challenges such as economic volatility and climate change – and to make the country better aligned with inclusive growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction. I am very pleased with the overwhelming response to this activity, and look forward to speedy conclusion of the document and early implementation of the projects and programmes.
This Expo and Summit will, no doubt, create opportunities for networking and facilitate trade. I am acutely aware that once accompanied by the right policies, trade can be a principal driver to the transition to a green economy. As identified in the United Nations Green Economy Guidebook, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, manufacturing and renewable energy are six key sectors that stand to benefit substantially from trade opportunities associated with the increase demand for environmentally-friendly goods and services. Guyana is well endowed with all of these resources; together with the right trade and investment policies, the country can reap substantial benefits from increased production and exports. The resulting improvement in the country’s gross domestic product, balance of payments and national income would be most welcomed.
Mr. Chairman, I want to posit that the achievement of green growth is inseparable from developments in the private sector, particularly small and medium enterprises. In my address to the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association’s Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony, in June last year, I made reference to the need for the private sector to hasten the transition to a Green Economy by introducing fundamental changes to the way they conducted business. His call was made in recognition of the fact that, without a decisive contribution of the business community, the transformation of our economy would be made more difficult.
Let me emphasize, that small and medium scale businesses should not be intimidated by the presence of the large, well-established and recognized firms, which would have already established their environmental footprints. Small and medium scaled businesses have a vital role to play in the transformation process as there is now a growing demand for green products and services. And there is no shortage of ideas and opportunities for start-ups to be successful and sustainable. The key is to first find a green market niche that is consistent with market demand and the Government’s priorities and develop it. Here, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce to drinking straws made of bamboo, one of the many products, including chairs and beds, of Indonesia with which I became familiar during my recent attendance at the IMF/World Bank annual Meetings, in Bali. Bamboo is very well known in Guyana, as it grows extensively in the wild. Just think of the possibilities of bamboo products replacing, for example, the non-biodegradable plastic straws, chairs and tables. Having banned the use of certain plastic products in 2016, our Government is committed to ban even more by 2020. Small and medium businesses have an opportunity to, in local parlance, “cash in” on the void that will be created.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, our Government is cognizant of the growing demand for, and the challenges associated with, financing for small and medium scaled businesses in Guyana. The cost of finance remains high and, in spite of the presence and growing influence of a credit bureau, the preference for collateral at formal financial institutions remains strong and is very often not accessible. High non-performing loans and the need for banking institutions to improve their balance sheets and capital adequacy ratio also contribute to stultification of the growth of small and medium businesses. The Government has been playing its part, investing over $1 billion dollars in grant or near grant funding in programmes such as SLED, LEN, HEYS and the Small Business Fund. We have commissioned a study, supported by the Caribbean Development Bank, to examine the feasibility and the need for the re-establishment of a development banking facility or institution to help these businesses in targeted sectors and activities. The preliminary report of the Consultant undertaking the study has benefitted from multi-stakeholder views, resulting a request to the financing institution for a broadening of the terms of reference. Small and medium businesses will benefit further from measures to be enunciated in the 2019 Budget. As our Government continues to develop the national green finance roadmap, we expect the local financial institutions to adopt a less passive approach to financing these businesses. In this regard, during the recently-held Consultations on the 2019 Budget, I asked the Representatives of the Guyana Bankers’ Association to develop new and innovative products to drive our Green Agenda.
Mr. Chairman, investment in urban and rural infrastructure is necessary to stimulate economic activities and provide easier access to markets by small and medium businesses. While the government will continue to play a key role in the provision of infrastructure, the transformational change will require large-scale private sector involvement. And so, given the restricted fiscal space, on the one hand, and the widening infrastructure deficit, on the other, a Public Private Partnership (P3) Framework has been established as a delivery model to overcome some of the challenges that hinder the execution of development projects in Guyana. The framework prioritizes core projects for collaboration between the Government and the private sector.
Mr. Chairman, to reinforce its commitment to a green trajectory, Guyana has applied and successfully gained membership to the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE). PAGE is an organization that was launched in 2013 to provide assistance to countries in their transition to a green economy and the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The staff at the Ministry of Finance is working collaboratively with PAGE to reframe macroeconomic policies, practices and models that are consistent with the country’s green agenda.
Let me close by, once again, recognizing the diligence, dedication and hard work of the organizers of this event. To all those present, I leave you with this quote from George Bernard Shaw: “The love of economy is the root of all virtue”.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for the courtesy of your attention.