Finance Minister Winston Jordan has started consultations for the 2016 National Budget.
According to a statement from the Finance Ministry, Minister Jordan and his budget team hosted a high level meeting with the Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Major General (Rtd) Norman Mc.Lean and other executives of the PSC. The meeting took place on Thursday morning.
Among the issues raised was the Private Sector’s concern about the present state of the economy.
In response, Minister Jordan reported that information coming out of the Bureau of Statistics shows that the outlook of the economy remains positive for the rest of the year while acknowledging that the first half of the year was affected by a downturn that began in 2014.
“He further noted that at a recent IMF/World Bank Annual Meeting he attended, it was revealed that world economic growth had slowed, and so the challenge of a slowdown in growth was not peculiar to Guyana”, the release from the Ministry stated.
Jordan also revealed the latest Bank of Guyana statistics which indicate that Private Sector credit and production have seen positive growth for the period January to October and projected that this growth will continue into the final quarter of 2015.
Other positive economic indicators showed Real Estate Mortgage loans rising by 12 percent, and Construction and Engineering by 9 percent.
The Minister also reported that on the production side, rice production grew by 15 percent between January to July; and Sugar production saw a 4 percent increase for the period January to October, while positive growth has been recorded for diamonds, eggs, poultry meat and electricity, among other sectors.
Jordan is convinced that the growth in the various sectors will boost investors’ confidence in the economy as well as catalyze the Private Sector to renew their resolve to increase their investments in production as well as value added services.
The Finance Ministry said the PSC welcomed the news that Private Sector Credit had increased by 6 percent between January and September.
Minister Jordan also told the PSC that the government is pursuing new markets for rice. He also reported to the PSC officials that for the first time in the recent years, sugar production has exceeded the target.
The PSC for its part discussed challenges with the VAT Refunds system employed by the GRA, to which the Minister pointed to the functioning Tax Reform Commission as well as the impending audit of the entity that will ensure that the challenges raised will be addressed satisfactorily.
The Minister also said that his Ministry was collaborating closely with the Hon. Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, to improve the ease of doing business in Guyana, which in turn would effect an improvement in Guyana’s ranking in the Doing Business indicators.
The PSC welcomed the improvements being made at Go-Invest to make it a truly ‘one stop agency’ but cautioned that the bureaucratic malaise of the past should not be continued.
The body also noted that the recent expansion of airlift capacity for cargo out of Guyana should be seen as an opportunity to boost diversification of the Agriculture sector into fresh fruits and vegetables which are in high demand in the North American and Caribbean markets. They urged Government to invest in laboratories and other devices that would ensure certification and accreditation.
The PSC also discussed other issues for consideration in the 2016 budget, including corporate, personal and property taxes – written submissions on these had been sent to the Tax Reform Commission; interior roads and airstrips; export marketing support; liberalization of the telecommunications sector and the National Competitiveness Strategy.
Minister Jordan and the PSC agreed to meet quarterly in the interest of closer collaboration.