Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Spoilt Christmas
(Aired 6 January 2004)

   My last commentary was written on the 22nd December 2003, and since I had not received my Christmas tree or decorations, I was not in such a good mood.

   As if to make matters worse on the 23rd December I was confronted with the following release by Geoffrey Da Silva in the Stabroek news which declared quote "big strides in 2003 investments"  in this release we were told that Da Silva had announced that he had attracted investments into Guyana for 189 projects valued at 17 billion dollars, which will create 2200 new jobs, all of this he claimed will be on his new Goinvest website which was the reason he wasted this country's money assembling members of the media and other interested parties at the Cara Inn to view a website which was not working.

   Unembarrassed Da Silva then tells those assembled, that, the website was developed by a local company called Red Spider and that the 17 billion investment was just a projection but the final data will be presented next month, I tried to access this website on the 6th January and apart from the usual rhetoric on the first page telling us what a great place Guyana is for investment, try getting to where it tells you what these new investments are, you will soon discover that it indeed does not work,  I wonder if the real name of the company which is developing this website is the Red Herring company rather than Red Spider company?

   But honestly ladies and gentlemen 17 billion in investments by 189 new companies!! Shame on all of us, were we all sleeping during the year when all of this investment was going on? Of course Da Silva was careful not to mention the name of even one company of the 189 new ones, which he claims were being built even as he was speaking to the people assembled at the Cara Inn, perhaps the epidemic of phantoms in this country is growing, since now, we don't only have a phantom gang fighting the criminals, we have phantoms investing in our country building phantom industries, creating phantom jobs and investing 17 billion imaginary dollars.

   Whilst Da Silva was telling us this nonsense the Auditor General is telling us that in 2002 of the 3960 registered companies in this country 1817 were deemed to be inactive and that in 2002, 315 were identified as defunct compared to another 262 in 2001. Unless I am reading the auditor general wrong 315 businesses died in 2002.

   This is typical of this Government's public dissemination of deception, since whilst private enterprise is being mutilated daily with more and more companies going bankrupt every day due to mismanagement of the Economy, high interest rates, poor electricity and non incentives for existing companies, Goinvest is giving huge concessions to 189 companies which they cannot identify, to start up business here.

         As if to slap Da Silva in his face even harder the World Bank is telling the world in its 2003 report that quote "although reliable statistics are not available foreign direct investment [in Guyana] averaged 50 million US per annum between 1997-2001" ladies and gentlemen during this period we saw companies like Omai, Barama, GT&T etc. investing here, but in 2003 Da Silva is telling us that investment was 85 million US; where are these companies?

    So the reason I question these investments is because it is in complete conflict with what the World Bank's 2003 report for Guyana tells us, that despite progress in recent years Guyana's economic policy regime is not conducive to private sector development and impedes Guyana's competitiveness within and outside the region. The fiscal incentives are often discretionary, and there is no level playing field. Many licenses are required to start-up and operate a business, and they are difficult to obtain and renew. Also impediments to clearing goods through customs and irregularities in public procurement continue to impede initiative.

       Our deficiencies to attract foreign investment, according to the World Bank are as follows; a poor legal system to settle commercial disputes, an infrastructure which is a serious bottleneck to private investment. Ladies and gentlemen the WB is telling all the investors on this planet that despite three decades of public investment Guyana lacks a deep-water port, its road and rail systems are deficient, electrical power is expensive and unreliable, telecommunication services are limited. Finally qualified workers and managers are scarce because of emigration. It is also telling investors that decades of socialist government and ideology have left an anti business residue in our country; government officials view the business community with suspicion, recently government/business relations suffered a setback whilst drafting the new investment code, the business community preferred an automatic, non discriminatory tax regime. This clause has however been removed by the government, as a result Guyana's business environment suffers from excessive government regulation and discretion.

   Despite all of this, Da Silva tells us on his Goinvest website that the local businesses rely too much on government. Well duhhh Mr. Da Silva if you want to control them so that you can discriminate against them, giving enormous concessions to friends and family of the members of the PPP's hierarchy, and to no one else, what do you expect?

    This lopsided execution of our laws in favour of some is evidenced by the fact, that I am reliably informed that Didco has not paid any of the relevant duties on the one million pounds of chicken they brought in for Christmas; even though they are required by law to do so within 10 days of clearing it through the PID system.

  Finally, tonight, I would like to congratulate all the people concerned in the process of putting Mr. Fung-on as chairman of the Public Service Commission, surely this cannot be the same Fung-on who caused so much trouble in this country when he was Public Service Minister? Or the Fung-on who was such a total disaster at the Public Service Appellate Tribunal? But his picture is there in the newspaper to confirm my worst fears, great work guys; just what we needed, a huge red flag to wave in front of the Public Servants and their Union.

   This appointment confirms my suspicions that all of these constitutional reforms have changed nothing! The opposition and the Parliament are all still useless appendages and have no say whatsoever in this country. It is however my understanding that the other two members of the Appellate Tribunal are celebrating!