As Guyana swiftly approaches first oil, which is expected next month, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson-Miller, is warning that certain adjustments need to be made as the South American country prepares for the anticipated windfall.
She expressed these sentiments while delivering the feature address on November 28, at the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (GCCI) 130th Annual Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner which was held at the Guyana Marriott Hotel in Georgetown.
Addressing the large gathering of business officials and representatives, Mrs. Simpson-Miller said, “I am told that that your country appears poised to embark on an exciting path to high levels of economic growth and huge development. This through significant private, foreign and local investments in your economy.” However, she later added, “Major adjustments will have to be made as a nation.”
Speaking to the changes that will be necessary, the former Jamaican Prime Minister said that inflation will need to be targeted through fiscal and monetary policies in order to ensure that prices remain low and stable. “And since inflation is the greatest tax on the poor, probably low inflation is the best gift any government can give to its people and to its business sector,” she stated.
She went on to say that another aspect to meaningful economic reform is to achieve stability in the foreign exchange market. According to Mrs. Miller-Simpson, “This is important for reducing inflationary pressures in the economy and also to enable businesses, especially those that must import, to be able to plan their transactions in a stable, predictable, environment.”
Touching on the issue of local content, the former Prime Minister emphasized the need for local businesses to be able to thrive, and for measures to be put into place to enable this.
“Implementing changes to Government’s procurement legislation, to enable local companies, in particular small businesses, to successfully participate in bidding for government contracts is also another important move,” she stated, adding, “As your economy moves, it is vital that local businesses are not disadvantaged in participating and prospering.”
She also stressed the importance and need for public accountability and transparency, saying, “This creates trust in Government and in national institutions. Therefore, there is no room for corruption in Governmental public institutions.”
Mrs. Simpson-Miller served as Prime Minister of Jamaica from March 2005 to September 2007 and again from 5 January 2012 to 3 March 2016.