Guyana: The business community and declining fortunes


The business community and declining fortunes


The Georgetown Chamber has completed yet another attitudinal survey and as has been the norm, its findings hold no surprises for those who have been following business trends over recent years. The overwhelming majority of those who responded to the survey say that they do not hold out much hope for a change in their fortunes this year.

This comment jars sharply against comments by the government that the economy is on the ‘improve’ and that businesses are expanding.  The government has over the years, been keen to inform the world that it was open to expediting the investment climate and that people were falling head over heels to come to invest in Guyana.

Such a report would have brought smiles to the members of the business community. For example, the hotels would have been reporting better occupancy, because the visiting investors would have had to stay somewhere. 

Another sign of a booming economy is the market place. Food is always an indicator. The more financially improved a people are, the more expansive becomes their diet. And this is reflected in the wide variety of things in the market place.

There was a time when everyone knew that Guyana was in the doldrums. There were not too many food items because imported foods were just not there. Today, just about every item of imported food is on the shelves. The business community has been able to access foreign currency which in turn went into buying just about everything that is demanded.

People, as they became more affluent, expanded their taste and the business community responded. The bubble seems to be bursting because the very businesses that made a profit satisfying habits suddenly find themselves not being able to record the kind of turnover that they once did. And the survey bears this out.

The survey found an interesting thing about life in Guyana; it found that there was a very high perception of corruption and that the government was doing precious little to curb whatever corruption there was.  Many in the business community would have come face to face with corruption. Some of them would have instigated it.

At the ports of import, the businessmen would have come face to face with the Customs officers who would have priced the goods. For a fee the businessman would have paid less import duties and the Customs officer would have released the goods having pocketed a fraction of the duties.
These businesses, overwhelmingly, state that the government has done little to curb the perception of corruption. And this is accurate because all too often the government has failed to take action in the face of reports.

Not only has the government failed to take action; it has also been involved in perpetuating the acts of corruption by refusing to explain questionable operations and actions.

Well that is not all that the businessmen have to worry about. The large ones recorded handsome profits. Cases in point are Banks DIH, Demerara Distilleries Limited, Gafoor’s and Sons and the companies that support the construction industry. But the smaller ones spoke of poor fortunes. And this had to be the case with new well-heeled investors that represent the Asian wave.

Chinese who once supplied goods at cheap prices, the proceeds of which went into the pockets of local businessmen, have now come to peddle their own goods. Some, because of their deep pockets, have been able to buy out some of the smaller businesses. The Chamber records would show closed businesses.

Yet the coming of the Asian investors must not be seen as a bad thing. For one, they are bringing new life into an economy that has once seen the business community being complacent to the point of stagnation. New items have come into the market and of course, the goods that the local businesses once peddled have become markedly cheaper.

Surely the local businesses would record a decline in revenue but then again, the survey does not examine the reason for the decline. One may very well find that some businesses had become obsolescent.

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  • Cyril Balkaran  On 03/22/2014 at 7:13 am

    It is a great pity that the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry has to lament the facts of its own research. The Fact that governments everywhere in the world is seen as a facilitator of big businesses and welcome most Investors to its doors is testimony that the desire to allow big business to enter the competitive areas of life in the country and to play on a level play field are to be considered as matters of policy for the engines that grind the economy that will allow the country to reap a positive economic growth each year. The fact that anti corruption measures are not working must not be seen as the sole indicator for lack of attraction of more private sector investments. The very Chamber of Commerce every where in the world advocate and support the entrepreneural environment that is so lacking in Guyana. What new developments have the CCAI in Georgetown brought to the table for 2014 or are they yet to bring their new initiatives to prevent the closures of the much needed smaller businesses. or is the Chamber falling prey to the recurrent adage of the big get bigger while the small are swallowed up on the wayside. The sardines are always eaten up by the sharks! We must together advocate the principles of good business practices that will work for Guyana in the 21st Century! God bless Guyana!

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