Mr. Vishnu Charran, President – Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce
May 27th, 2020
What do you see the business community focusing on coming out of Covid-19 lockdown with regards to moving forward and what changes do you foresee being implemented with the ‘new business norm’?
Mr. Vishnu Charran – President
Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce
The Corona Virus pandemic has created unprecedented times globally, creating not only massive upheaval from an overall health and wellness perspective but also contributing to the never before seen historic drop in oil to minus figures. The International Development Bank (IDB) forecasts our economic contraction to be -4.5% in the coming months ‘post lockdown’. As we move forward, we are however mindful of the delicate balance required to ensure optimum health of our population and economy as such we should more than ever focus on how to integrate healthy practices in our businesses to ensure high overall productivity and efficiency as we plan for the new economy that will initially be focused on basic needs e.g. food and shelter.
This country’s ‘over-dependence’ on oil revenues has handicapped us in many of the non-oil sectors contributing significantly to lack of innovation, overall creativity and underperformance in areas like manufacturing, agriculture, agri-processing as well as hindering our adoption and investment in climate/green friendly technologies as a measure to control the negative economic effects of dwindling oil revenues. This pandemic and subsequent ‘lock-down’ period has also exposed our inherent systemic shortfalls.
The business community, agricultural producers, and government must come together to create an enabling ecosystem for Agri-food processing and manufacturing with a focus on export markets. We should also look at implementing green technology as an alternative source of fuel to lower the overall cost of food production over time. The implementation and use of international best practices and models e.g. the Dutch and Japanese models for food production should be adopted as both models focus on using scarce land resources, producing high quality products using green and organic technology while consistently focusing on research and development.
The Government needs to institutionalize via the Bureau of Standards, high-quality agri-produce, and international traceability procedures from the farm level by doing the following to adequately enable the sector to reach the import markets standards:
- Mandate via the Bureau of Standards
- To ensure only certain chemicals can be imported and used in agricultural and food production e.g. European and Japanese import standards.
- At the local ‘wet market’ level that international food handling and HACAAP traceability measures must be Implemented from farm to market.
The Government needs to provide tax breaks for business investments in green technology, research, and development to support and encourage investment in this area.
The business community can weather this storm creatively and collaboratively, using an ‘all hands on deck’ approach married to a ‘one for all and all for one’ philosophy, where we all take care of each other, support local businesses, continue to buy local and focus on manufacturing and exporting. The future is brighter than we think, and non-dependence on the oil sector is a blessing in disguise.