Speech delivered by GCCI’s President at the Official Launch of Unicomer/Courts US$6M Distribution Facility in Eccles

His Excellency Donald Ramotar, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Ministers of the Government, members of the Diplomatic Corp, Board of Directors of Unicomer, management and staff of Courts Guyana Inc, members of sister business support organisations, Invited Guests, and Gentlemen.  As indicated by the Master of Ceremonies, I am Lance Hinds, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

For the benefit of some of you in the audience who might not know us, the GCCI was established in 1890 and is the oldest private sector representative organization in Guyana. It is a member-driven and professionally staffed non-profit association of business people committed to improving the economic climate and quality of life in Guyana. We are legislatively mandated under the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry Act Chapter 89:03 of the laws of Guyana.

The GCCI represents a significant voice of the business community in Guyana and strives to advocate policies, stimulate trade and investment, connect businesses, sustain economic growth and expand member opportunities with the aim of contributing to a stable and sustainable economic and social environment in Guyana where businesses can prosper.

Let me first of all on behalf of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry offer our unreserved congratulations to Courts Guyana and their parent company Unicomer on the building of their new distribution Centre. This is one of the most technologically advanced facilities in the Caribbean and we are pleased that Courts continues to improve even further the efficiency of their operations in Guyana.

As our economy grows… as it evolves, as it becomes more and more competitive, it is becoming more critical that we apply effective supply chain management and logistics for efficiency and effective customer assurance and support.

From the Chamber’s perspective, we have come to expect no less from Courts Guyana Inc. They always seem to be working quietly on utilizing innovative methods to get things done. Under one of the other hats that I wear I am in the business of Information Technology solutions. So I remember in the bad old days when we had nothing resembling business grade data connectivity. (we still don’t have it but… we will deal with that later). But I remember being in discussions with Courts where they was still trying and found innovative ways to effectively connect their branches with their main store… and this was despite the limitations during those days.

I cannot say enough about the kind of member that Courts has been and continues to be at the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Over the years their representatives have served on the council and also on the executive with dedication and a level of support that has been a shining example for all. Their support for our various initiatives and related activities has been outstanding. From our annual Business Guyana Magazine, Business Directory, our capacity building seminars, the GCCI Television Programme, to our annual Gala dinner Courts has always contributed generously to ensure their success over the years.

I believe that we indicated our appreciation in the past, but today I would like to publicly express our appreciation to Courts Guyana and their parent company Unicomer for their longtime support of the Guyana Chamber of Commerce and Industry and ask for a round of applause.

Now that I have arranged to get the applause, it would be remiss of me not to add that we look forward to the continued support of Courts in our efforts to grow and advance the interests of the private sector.

We clearly live in exciting times in Guyana. This opening follows a series of new private sector initiatives both local and overseas during this year.  A new modern supermarket was opened just last Saturday. Another new distribution and logistics facility was opened a few weeks ago with a promise from their group CEO about a further expansion of their operations and new product offerings.  There has been the commencement of significant operations in the mining sector this year. One of the world’s largest oil companies has just opened an office to begin initial exploration.

It seemed like every time we turn around there was a delegation or a large company seeking to visit the Chamber to discuss the possibilities entering the market and also to get a complete picture of the local business environment.

Guyana has become a place of significant interest in the region. I was at the Caribbean Export 2014 business colloquium in Barbados last week. There were a range of inquiries about Guyana during the social sessions. What is going on down there? Where is the action? The Caribbean Export Outlook magazine in their 2014-2015 edition wonders in one their articles if Guyana is going to become the next economic tiger and provides some insight about how that can become a reality.

All of this, for all instances and purposes, augurs well for Guyana in the medium and long term. It promises growth, diversification and modernisation of our economy. It should lead to more employment, upstream and downstream business opportunities. We would expect that this would reduce the level of migration of our young people because of the level and nature of employment that will be available within this new and exciting paradigm.

The question before us now therefore, is this. If Courts, Massy, TruValue, Esso and others are expanding and investing in their facilities and services, and investors continue to show interest and make inquiries. What is our responsibility as national stakeholders to ensure that this investment in Guyana that is currently in progress is justified? The faith shown in this economy is rewarded, and the excitement that is being generated inside and outside Guyana continues, and turned into our national advantage.

The first answer is that now more than ever, ladies and gentlemen, we need to have a care. We are all aware of the current challenges that we face. We are in, as it said, in previously uncharted waters. Everybody is watching us now to see we conduct ourselves during this period of some uncertainty. As stated recently by one of our sister business support organizations, this is a time for maturity and level headedness and not the brinkmanship and political mechanisms that characterized our landscape in the most recent past.

I believe fundamentally that we are at the crossroads of our history and our future. In 2016, we are going to be fifty years old as an independent nation. How we manage our national affairs, our political and democratic processes during this period will set the tone and direction of this nation for many years to come.

I also think that we have find a way to be less consumed by politics and begin to concentrate a lot more on how we make the policy adjustments necessary to make this economy grow and become more diverse. There is no question that this economy has been growing at quite a pace but we still need to catch up with some of our Caribbean brethren.

We stakeholders have to work together to develop a series of initiatives build an enabling, progressive environment that will convince our citizens to remain and provide significant inputs into the local economy.  In this vein all of us as stakeholders must work to establish and foster the framework under which a series of initiatives under which Private Sector expansion will be conceptualized and delivered.

The nature of the current investments in this economy and the varied types of interest means that there is going to be level of complexity which is not necessarily supported in our current operational environment.  We therefore need to work on modernizing our laws, for example the development, management and distribution of intellectual assets is a billion dollar industry. We need to upgrade ourselves to participate fully and compete successfully in that area.

So ladies and gentlemen I have come to the end of my two cents. I hope that my remarks in some way contribute to a sensible national discussion that is so badly needed at this time.

Let me once again commend and congratulate Courts Guyana and Unicomer on establishing this new facility and assure you that you will always have the support of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry as you grow from strength to strength.  Thank you very much.

 

GCCI’s President, Mr. Lance Hinds making remarks on behalf of the Chamber at the official launch of the Unicomer/Courts $US 6 million distribution facility in Eccles. Once again, the Chamber wishes to extend its sincerest congratulations to one of its stalwart members, and wish them the very best as they grow from strength to strength.