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
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
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
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!