Ron Webster passes away

( Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Ronald Webster died early yesterday morning at the Balwant Singh Hospital.

Webster, said to be 72, passed away at 3:30am yesterday after being admitted to the hospital on Saturday for post-operation care after flying home from Trinidad where he underwent surgery for cancer. Webster’s family members could not be contacted yesterday.

Former Chairman of the PSC and Honorary Secretary Ramesh Dookhoo told Stabroek News that Webster’s passing was a great loss to Guyana.

He said that one of Webster’s major achievements had been his diligence in corporate tax reform. Dookhoo credited Webster with the ability to formulate relationships with the ultimate goal of Guyana’s development in mind. He said that Webster was able to “build good political relationships with all political parties…he made great strides in both tax and infrastructure reform making sure that the National Competitiveness Council met at least five times in his two years as [PSC] chairman to get our issues across.”

Webster, Dookhoo said, “served the PSC for over 20 years, especially in the early days he contributed tremendously to building the Commission.” Webster was not just a member of the PSC but nationally his contributions “were some of the best,” Dookhoo added.

Ronald Webster

Webster served as the PSC’s vice chairman from 1998-1999 and became chairman in 2012 and was subsequently re-elected. At the time of his death, he was the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Caribbean Containers Incorporated (CCI) as well as Managing Director of Technology Investments and Management Incorporated. CCI is the latest incarnation of the cardboard carton producing company Seals and Packaging Industries Limited.

Ramesh Persaud, acting Chairman of the PSC, told Stabroek News that the Commission was aware that Webster was ill and was seeking medical attention in Trinidad “but this is a complete shock, we were all hoping for his recovery.”

Persaud said that Webster’s death was a great loss to Guyana’s private sector. He lauded Webster for his integrated approach to ensuring that Guyana’s political environment was beneficial to the growth of local businesses.

President Donald Ramotar, in a statement, expressed shock and sadness. “On behalf of myself, family and people of Guyana, I extend most profound condolences to his family and the private sector community. Mr. Webster was admired for his values which underpinned his commitment to public service and the promotion of national development, mainly through private enterprise activities,” he said.

“He left an indelible print on the private sector society, which will be sorely missed. Mr. Webster will always be remembered as a genuine partner in national development, a true patriot and as someone who has given unequivocal support, above narrow, selfish interests,” Ramotar said.

The main opposition coalition, APNU also expressed condolences at Webster’s passing.

In a statement yesterday, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh said “I am deeply saddened at the news of the passing of my friend Ronald Webster. More so, I am saddened that the country has lost a private sector titan and leader. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his immediate family, as well as his families at the Private Sector Commission and Caribbean Container Limited and his friends, at his sudden passing…

“My experience working with Ron has impressed upon me his dedication and professionalism in achieving whatever he sought to accomplish. Having committed his life to the private sector, he was a wealth of information, history and foresight. Ron was bold in the face of fierce criticism but never faltered as he continued to work with fervour to promote the interest of the local private sector.”

Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud said that in addition to his various private sector positions, Webster demonstrated his dexterity on many Boards including that of the Bauxite Industry Development Company Inc where he served as Chairman of the Board from 1999 to 2005.

He noted that Webster also served as Director on the Board of the National

Agricultural Research Institute and Chairman of the Board of the New GMC.  He was also a Director on the Board of the Aroaima Mining Company from 2004 and served as Chairman of both the Board of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission from 2005 to 2010 and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Persaud said “With his unflagging commitments to the natural resources sector, Mr. Webster will truly be missed for his leadership in championing various policy initiatives, inclusive of interventions to reduce the use of non-biodegradable packaging materials in Guyana and more recently, a series of tax reform measures.

“The untimely passing of this patriot, Mr. Ronald Webster is indeed an irreplaceable loss to Natural Resources and the Environment Sector, Private Sector Commission, and to the nation. We have lost a cherished colleague, a friend for all seasons, a Guyanese patriot of rare quality.”

Webster sat on various boards and was President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association from 1997-1999, and received the association’s lifetime achievement award.

Earlier this year, the Guyana Securities Council filed legal action against Webster over shares transfers from CCI to another Webster controlled company. The GSC sued Webster on January 30th 2014, and sought a court order for full restitution be made of all sums received by him during the share transfer.