Members of the business community are calling on government to honour its promise to increase the salaries of public servants, address the crime situation, and fix the economy. NewsNow caught up with several representatives of the business community for an assessment of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change government’s performance over the past year.
In the area of security, despite statistics released by the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and comments made by the Minister of Public Security, in relation to a decrease in crime, the private sector representatives expressed significant concern with the current situation, which they say, will deter investment.
While they commended GPF for the increase in the number of quick arrests made recently, they reiterated their concern about the current surge in violent criminal activities, such as armed robberies and home invasions.
Chairman of the Trade and Investment sub-committee of PSC, Ramesh Dookhoo, said the private sector is “not happy with the crime situation in the country, we recognize that there’s a lot of social ills in the country that is causing it… we are not blaming the government but we are not happy…The police force needs to be commended based on the amount of arrests that is being made but we need to back that up with an efficient court system to prosecute some of the criminals…”
Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association (BCCDA) Chairman, Ramroop Rajnauth and Chairman of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UCCCI), Krishnand Jaichand, both expressed the view that the prevalence of criminal activities, to a large extent, will deter investors.
“We need to really get a grip of this crime from a business perspective because if we don’t arrest the crime, people will not have the confidence and want to invest in our country,” Jaichand said.
This point was also raised at the recent opening of the Guyana Exposition (GuyExpo) by Chairman of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Vishnu Doerga who, during his address, called for the government to accelerate its role in the area of providing a sense of security to businesses, and the society at large.
Public Servants salary
Regarding a promised increase in salary for Public Servants, PSC expressed displeasure with the failure of government to move in this direction. Dookhoo said, “They (the government) have not increased the salaries for public servants, we are not happy with that.”
Commenting on this issue, Rajnauth stated, “The increase in salaries that was promised and have not been delivered so far, has impacted a lot on business, coupled with the crime situation.”
While President David Granger has indicated the increase is awaiting the completion of a Commission of Inquiry report into the operations of the Public Service, several trade unionists disagree with this approach.
The slowdown in economic activity is also of major concern to the business representatives. Touching on this, Rajnauth said, “It has really plummeted to a point where it is actually causing a lot of business persons some concern in relation to whether they can continue or not; the turnover is pretty slow because of the circulation of money so we feel that there is a lack in circulation of money.”
The government did however come in for praise in some other areas.
Dookhoo lauded the government for its move to clean the city and reduce the Berbice Bridge toll. “They have cleaned up the city and they have reduced the Berbice Bridge toll. We have tangible evidence and statistics to show that the fishermen are now better protected… Chronicle (the state-owned newspaper) now has some balanced reporting, which is a change…,” he said.
BCCDA also commended the administration for the cleanup initiatives. Rajnauth said while the government did not meet the expectations of a wide cross section of society, given the number of promises made running up to the 2015 elections, “being a new government in office, it would take some time before it could impact, so I would say it was a fair year for them.”
The business representatives also raised concerns about the unemployment levels that exist and expressed hope that this and the other areas of weaknesses identified are given special attention by government in the coming months.