The GCCI’s annual Attitudinal Survey

[] – The annual Attitudinal Survey which the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce has undertaken for three consecutive years has its limitations, one of which is that it proffers the opinions of considerably less than a majority of the business houses in Georgetown and its environs.

Just over 80 respondents might sound like a lot but when account is taken of the scores of small and, in a few instances, medium scale business enterprises that continue to spring up across the city, even the Chamber will admit that its Attitudinal Survey embraces a minority of the urban business community, though that by no means cancels out the validity of the effort.

Another of the Survey’s weaknesses is that it takes no account of the views of the numerous small business owners. This has everything to do with the fact that the efforts of the Chamber notwithstanding, those enterprises which we refer to as small businesses in Guyana have, for the most part, responded negatively to the GCCI’s membership invitation. Chamber President Mr Clinton Urling has confessed to being considerably disappointed by this.

Had the survey been able to reach those small business owners it would have provided them with an opportunity to put into the public domain their considerable challenges. Most of those challenges are linked to difficulties associated with access to capital, which, in many instances has to do with small businesses lacking the requirements necessary to secure the considerate attention of commercial banks.

It is of course no secret that the respondents are anonymous and without mincing words the fact of the matter is that in the absence of the cloak of anonymity the number of respondents would almost certainly have been considerably less. Business owners have come to be keen students of the country’s political culture. They fully understand that our democracy has not evolved to a point where every pronouncement that upsets the political rulers goes unnoticed.

For all of its limitations, the GCCI’s Attitudinal Survey is commendable and in some respects, helpful. There is no other initiative that we know of that seeks to probe the views of the business community on important issues. More than that the limited numbers of the respondents and their anonymity notwithstanding, we are aware that numbered amongst the members of the Chamber are some of the best-known, largest and most durable business houses in Guyana. Their reputations certainly lend a measure of credibility to the Survey.

Another interesting thing about the Survey is that, in some respects, the views of the respondents appear to mirror those of larger sections of the citizenry as a whole. Certainly, the outcomes of the survey and the comments made by Mr Urling at his media briefing leaves one in no doubt not only about the seemingly uncontrollable levels of crime and the absence of a comparable police response and also about the near complete loss of confidence in the police on the part of the business community.

More than that and in the light of the frequent and seemingly fruitless exchanges between the police and the private sector Mr Urling even wondered aloud on Wednesday as to where on the police’s scale of priorities the protection of the business community falls.

What the survey also does is to re-enforce the public perception that corruption is rife in the society. There is also no mistaking the perception that much of the corruption manifests itself at the level of the plundering of the state. While the survey does not actually say so, the repetitive nature of the charge (it has been made three years in a row) points to the perception that government is not doing anywhere near as much as it should to curb the plundering of state resources and the various other forms of corrupt practices.

On balance and its limitations notwithstanding, the Survey makes a modest but useful pronouncement on the views of sections of the business community on issues that have to do both with their particular interests and with those of the society as a whole. It suggests, among other things, that the silence of business owners at the individual level is reflective of a particular brand of prudence rather than the absence of an informed point-of-view.