CPSO attack on Guyana’s Local Content Policy: Guyana getting short end of stick in trading with Caricom – GCCI President

– says Caribbean will lose should Guyana exit CSME

By Jarryl Bryan

The umbrage taken by the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) to Guyana’s efforts to protect its own local content, has sparked criticism and calls for Guyana to consider exiting the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME). According to one Private Sector official, Guyana has always been short-changed within the bloc, when it comes to trade.
The disparity between Guyana’s exports and imports to the region was recently referenced by Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) President Timothy Tucker, who posted statistics to his social media page from the Bureau of Statistics dating back to 2019, to show that Guyana imports far more than it exports, to the Caribbean region.
According to the Bureau’s statistics which covered the period of January to March 2019, Guyana imported 29.6 per cent of its goods (US$117.2 million) from Trinidad and Tobago. The United States followed with 23.4 per cent of goods at $92.5 million. Chinese imports accounted for 11.2 per cent, at $44.2 million and then Suriname at 7.2 per cent ($28.4 million).
However, Guyana’s exports for that same period tell a starkly different story. Guyana exported 40.6 per cent of its produce (US$137.8 million) to Canada, which has several privately owned gold companies operating locally.
Coming in at second was the United Arab Emirates at 10 per cent (US$33.9 million) and then the United States at 8 per cent (US$27.1 million). In an interview with this publication, Tucker noted that the disparities told the story of who are the real beneficiaries of CSME, when it comes to trade and who had the most to lose if Guyana were to exit the framework.
“The disparity in reference to the imbalance of trade between Guyana and the Caribbean, it’s something that needs to be noted. The entire Caribbean refers to Guyana as possibly being the breadbasket of the Caribbean, but yet they have numerous amounts of non-tariff barriers preventing us from attaining that goal.”
“Now if we’re going to continue along this road and those countries want to do trade with Guyana, they need to move those barriers and allow Guyana to enter those markets. We’re not asking them to lower their standards. But those are non-tariff barriers. There’s no way to reach a standard to go around that,” he said.
According to Tucker, the removal of non-tariff barriers, which are trade restrictions put in place by countries to protect their own local industries, would create a level playing field in the region for trade.

The statistics published by Guyana’s Bureau of Statistics for the year 2019

“Guyana has always been accommodating and allowing imports from right across the Caribbean. And you can see that from the numbers that were presented… and this is not something new based on CPSO’s response. This is something we’ve been telling the Guyana Government since Carl Greenidge was Minister of Foreign Affairs.”

He pointed out that the Government has a seat at the table with other Caricom leaders and in this sense, is in a position to push for change. But Tucker noted that if there is pushback from the rest of Caricom on the issue of removing non-tariff barriers, the time may be ripe to re-evaluate Guyana’s role in the organisation.
This comes even as the World Bank recently credited Guyana’s growing oil sector with propping up economic growth rate in the Caribbean region.

According to the World Bank in its recently released “Global Economic Prospects” report, the tourism reliant region would see dramatically less growth without the projected doubling of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate to 49.7 per cent.
As it relates to CPSO, Tucker assured that the Chamber would meet to discuss the regional organisation’s position on Guyana’s local content legislation and a statement would be forthcoming.
On Wednesday last, a leaked email detailed concerns of members of CPSO over Guyana’s recently-passed local content law and plans to reach out to the Guyana Government, and ultimately Caricom.
The main contention is that the law, which makes provisions for Guyanese persons and Guyanese businesses to benefit from the oil and gas sector at specified percentages, violates certain provisions of the Caricom Treaty.
The membership of the CPSO comprises private sector entities operating in the Caricom space, including micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs). The CPSO is currently being chaired by the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a Trinidad-based conglomerate and among its Board of Directors is Guyanese businessman Suresh Beharry. In the leaked email, it was indicated that the businessman would approach the Guyana Government on behalf of the CPSO.
According to a statement on Thursday, the CPSO said it is “the most recently-accredited Associate Institution of the Caribbean Community” and is to act as the “apex” institution for the private sector in Caricom, with a mandate to contribute to the full implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Beharry also issued a statement of his own on Thursday, clarifying that he was not tasked to advocate the CPSO’s position, but merely advised “constructive dialogue and engagement with the Guyana Government and local stakeholders and to avoid any confrontation or disruptive fallout”.
However, the Organisation’s posture on Guyana’s landmark local content law has already sparked outrage among the various Private Sector bodies in Guyana as well as prominent business figures.