Speech by: Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo, Chairman, Private Sector Commission.
It is with great pleasure that I address this gathering on the occasion of Guyana’s first Building Exposition. The theme of this Exposition is “Building Businesses and Communities” and this is of particular relevance at this point in Guyana’s development as the private sector stands poised and ready to have a transformative effect on development in Guyana. Home Mortgages have quadrupled over a number of years.
The Entire Commercial Sector is being rebuilt daily and as a result there is more and more demand for the services of construction Companies and Material suppliers and most important the attendant financial services sector which has shown phenomenal growth over the last couple of years.
But I think that this exhibition will underscore two important issues
The value of various players in the private Sector paddling the same boat djusting our business models to serve a National drive.
The importance of incentivizing the Financial Sector to contribute to National Programs.
The housing program is a success because of a change in the model used by the banks and approved by the Government of Guyana.
Perhaps Mr. President we need to take this a step further so that the Commercial Banks can function in a manner closer to that of a developmental bank.
The Ministry of Housing must be complimented for hosting this Building Exposition at this particular junction in Guyana’s history when the housing drive is proceeding apace. Over the past sixteen years 80,000 house lots have been distributed and the government has plans to distribute 17,000 more over the next two years to low and middle-earners. This has led to a building boom which has also been fueled by infrastructure works. The need of our people for affordable housing has never been greater and it is hoped that this exposition will spur more persons to apply for house lots and spur those who have been granted lots to build on them.
Real estate mortgages have burgeoned over recent years. In 2009 private sector credit for real estate mortgages increased by 24.4% to a total of $27.3bn in outstanding mortgages while in 2008 the total had increased by 33.6% to $21.9bn from $16.4bn the previous year.
It is particularly heartening to see that our commercial banks have decided to participate in this exposition and I know that many of them have joined with the government in promoting low-cost housing through the granting of mortgages at low interest cost.
It is to be hoped that this initiative will be taken further and that more banks will join in the effort. There is also a need for a general lowering of interest costs for all mortgages. The Access to finance which has long been an unreachable gaol for many Guyanese Families now seems closer for many persons.The Partnership formed between the Private Sector and the Banking Sector and the Ministry of Housing has taught us some valuable lessons.
The construction of new homes has had a significant impact on our Gross Domestic Product in recent years with the engineering and construction sector contributing 11% to GDP last year. This development is expected to continue with the sector making an even greater contribution this year.
To the many exhibitors here I would like to say that you play a significant part in the realization of the dreams of many Guyanese. It is necessary for you to endeavour to provide quality products at the lowest possible cost. This would provide more of an impetus to the building boom and allow more Guyanese to realize the dream of owning their own homes.
But the construction Industry is also an exportable one. The New President of the GMSA will shortly be inviting the rest of the Construction Sector to participate in the HAITI building fair. Mr. Williams has just returned from Haiti.
Of paramount importance is the issue of quality and standards. In the past many developers have constructed homes of less than stellar quality and many home owners found themselves in a position of having to pay mortgages while needing to execute substantial repairs to their new homes. It is necessary for the government to play the part of watchdog to ensure that our people are not taken advantage of in their efforts to secure their own homes.
In light of the building boom it is now even more imperative for us to have the enforcement of building codes and for the enhancement of town and country planning. The theme of this exposition is “Building Businesses and Communities” and it is therefore appropriate to comment on the issue of zoning. While much construction has been taking place in areas allocated by government for low or middle-income communities, much private housing and business construction has also been taking place and it is now necessary for there to be strictly striated areas for business and for residences. Many residential areas have now been overrun by businesses and there seems to be no order in the designation of residential areas and not many attempts to preserve these.
The approval of building plans also needs to be enhanced since many potential home and business owners have to wait many months to have their plans approved. The process needs to be improved from the level of the NDC’s upwards.
The construction industry also needs to consider the formation of an NGO for businesses in the sector and this exposition which brings together so many players in the industry can act as a catalyst for such a grouping. An association of businesses in the construction sector can also act as a self-policing agency that seeks to enhance standards as well as boost the levels of co-operation among the players.
I thank you.