Guyana urged to develop IT, other emerging sectors

first_imgBY VAHNU MANICKCHANDWith the David Granger Administration looking to divert from the traditional ‘six economic sisters’, the country is being urge to capitalise on sectors that will aid the impending transformation that is expected over the coming years.This call was made by outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy, Bryan Hunt, during a recent interview with Guyana Times. Hunt pointed out that new and emerging industries are needed in Guyana to absorb the workforce that will be coming out of the traditional sectors that are declining, as well as this huge youth bulge that will be coming into productive life over the next five to 10 years.The US envoy explained that with the country already embarking on an oil and gas sector, it is set to receive an influx of revenues from the emerging petroleum sector and all eyes will be on Guyana on how it manages the monies that will flow into the State’s coffers. He noted that the possibilities for exploring new sectors in Guyana are great.According to Hunt, Government needs to sit with the Private Sector, particularly those looking to enter into the new industries, and really understand what are the barriers to entry, what is holding the country back, what are the tax policies needed, the fiscal policies and the regulatory environment.He added too that the country should look at why it has such a consistently low ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index and remove such barriers so that there can be an influx of revenue coming in that will be used to offset the cost of creating alternative employment generating industries.On such sectors, the US Diplomat believes Guyana should develop is the Information Technology industry, especially since the country is on the verge of liberalising telecommunications and has already introduced 3G and 4G technology at the cell level.“I think looking at all of the information technology-driven possibilities – call centres, software designs, hardware designs, services that can be provided offshore, it is a sector that Guyana should look at and it should begin to look at how it structures its education system to provide the professionals that are necessary to do that,” he posited.Even as this is being called for by Hunt, the Government has already signed a US million Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian Government via its High Commissioner in Guyana, Venkatachalam Mahalingam for the set-up of an information communication and Technology (ICT) Centre of Excellence in Guyana.This centre will provide training for Public Sector ICT professionals to ensure the availability of a highly skilled ICT workforce, equipped with the requisite expertise to meet the increasingly complex demands of the public and Private Sectors.Moreover, Hunt believes that the country’s tourism sector has vast and untapped potential that is unmatched in the region. He noted that while there is a long way to go, Guyana has a tremendous natural product to offer with locations such as the Rupununi, Iwokarama, the Kaieteur and Orinduik waterfalls are unparallel in other parts of the world.“I think that you would be a new destination on the tourism map and there are ways if you are to offer a high end product that people will be willing to pay for it… I think that Guyana could be on the tourism map, not like Barbados where tourism is 90 per cent of the economy, but it can be a productive sector,” he stressed.However, the US envoy outlined that in order for the country to benefit from such potential, it requires investment in infrastructure as well as changes in the duties and importation policies that holds the sector back.“If Government is serious about tourism development then there should not be a “ridiculously high import rate on four wheel drive vehicles, which are essential to the tourism economy that is going to be created here,” he cautioned.Additionally, Hunt noted that with such fertile soils, there is the possibility of going into the agriculture and agro-processing sectors – not the tradition sectors but crops that are of high values such as chilli peppers. He said that there are valued added products in the agricultural and agro-processing sphere that ought to be looked at more aggressively, disclosing that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had done some work a few years ago on such products and so there are materials out there to look at.Furthermore, with low energy cost, which Guyana is yet to explore, the country can also look at light manufacturing, the US Diplomat stated. On the other hand, he opined that Guyana does not have to be the end developer of products, noting that sometimes it is better to be the designer.“Sometimes being the folks that are doing the offshore initial design of whatever is going to be produced is far more lucrative than being the ones that actually screws the parts together and given your (currently) energy cost, I think doing some of that beginning of the value addition chain work has possibilities here in Guyana. But again, that like software and IT development, it requires looking at the education system and really giving people the skills they need to look into those industries,” he underscored.He went on to say that more economic chains like this will be in the future where products are designed in one country, put to together in a next country and finish off in another.Hunt further highlighted that with the vast potential in the Guyanese economy, the country needs the adequate infrastructure. To this end, he pointed out that given the geography, Manaus and Boa Vista in neighbouring Brazil should be sending their products North to Guyana and then up to Miami.This is where a deepwater harbour is needed, he outlined. “If you had a deep water harbour, you can have a tremendous shipping industry just from those products being produced from North-West Brazil. I think this is something Government needs to look seriously at,” he remarked, adding that the Lethem border should be linked to a road that runs to a deepwater harbour.“It is something Guyana needs to seriously look at and give yourself that shipping industry and all the associated things that goes with it such as insurance and banking services,” he remarked.last_img