Guyana Ronald Ramjattan knighted by Queen Elizabeth II
Although he left these shores more than a decade ago, Ronald Ramjattan still has a very
prevailing presence in Guyana, throughout the Caribbean and further afield. He is the business mogul standing firmly behind the well known Baron Foods Limited. As a Food Entrepreneur for many years he has maintained a flawless and distinguished reputation which was perhaps enough for him to be awarded with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) at Buckingham Palace. The award was bestowed upon him on October 9, last, by Queen Elizabeth II. According to Ramjattan in an invited comment to this publication yesterday, “it was indeed a humbling experience for me as a Guyanese coming from a normal background.” With unreserved modesty, he spoke of being an entrepreneur in Saint Lucia, his adopted home, for more than 24 years, and was elated to not only be recognized, but be auspiciously honoured by the Queen. “I am indeed fortunate,” said Ramjattan who has been exporting his over 125 food products from Saint Lucia to Guyana for the last 20 years. All of his products have also been consistently maintaining an ISO 22000 Standard and are also exported throughout the English, Dutch and French Islands of the Caribbean, North America and Europe. His integral support to the Saint Lucian economy saw the Government there nominating him for the OBE award which was accepted by the Queen. Though grateful for the recognition, Ramjattan is of the belief that the honour “is a plus for Guyana and Guyanese living outside.” His cousin Khemraj Ramjattan, prominent Attorney at Law and leader of the Alliance For Change, said that he is “over the moon with pride and joy” because of the achievement. In a congratulatory note, he outlined that he is “proud of this magnificent moment, this crowning achievement for a man of such humble beginnings. Sir, you have not only walked with us ordinary mortals, but now with Royalty. You are our Champion and Hero. Continue making us proud brother.” But Ronald Ramjattan is however convinced that had he remained in Guyana he would not have been bestowed with such a high honour. This is in light of the fact that since becoming a Republic, Guyana does not currently have the capacity to nominate a candidate to receive an award from Her Majesty the Queen. Like a number of other Caribbean territories, the Queen remains the head of Saint Lucia and can accept nominations for such awards. But according to Ramjattan, what Guyana can seek to continuously embrace is the notion of national accolades for those who so deserve. He turned his attention to West Indies star batsman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whom he believes should have long been the recipient of, at least, Guyana’s Order of Roraima, a feat that “(many) people have been clamouring for.” In fact it was very concerning to the OBE awardee that “the Government of Guyana has not even been recognizing the lawyers of Guyana for the longest while…” The Guyana-born Ramjattan has manufacturing plants in St Lucia and Grenada and has plans to expand further with the introduction of a plant in Trinidad. He has been constructing the latter proposed plan for the past two years. He is a well known personality when it comes to outstanding business performances, evident by the fact that he had copped, for the fifth consecutive year, the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for OCEC countries. Ramjattan coveted the Best Pepper Sauce Prize (2014) in Brussels, ahead of being awarded the OBE. He is currently President for the Saint Lucian Manufacturers Association and Chairman of the Trade Export Council of Saint Lucia. “That alone shows my background and my export capabilities and what I am doing must be right for the last 15-20 years to be receiving all these awards,” said an ecstatic Ramjattan who noted that “my products have been receiving awards locally, regionally and internationally.” The married father of one was born in Den Amstel, West Coast Demerara, and grew up at Number 47 Village, Corentyne, Berbice. He worked his way up the food business chain first as a Laboratory Technician at the Guyana Sugar Corporation then as Production Manager at Ricks and Sari. While his heart remains in Guyana, Ramjattan is currently not too keen on returning to these shores. According to him, “the situation has to change; the crime rate has to reduce…Guyana itself has to scale up fiscal incentives for manufacturers who just don’t have to go and sit down and make request to the Government.” “I feel just like Trinidad (for instance), you apply, you get through…in Saint Lucia you apply and you go to the Trade Export Board or something like that…but Guyana you have to come and appeal and be singled out…there is not a fiscal incentive for manufacturers alone or for every sector; you have to come and make your case to get (that),” said Ramjattan. According to him, he has in the past made a few applications, but none were successful to the point of getting off the ground. He nevertheless was keen on emphasizing that young local entrepreneurs must seek to remain focused although he is somewhat pessimistic about the business climate. “So many of us are so successful outside of Guyana, but when you come here it is a few companies that are so successful, but the young entrepreneurs in the manufacturing sector remain at a low level,” said Ramjattan. This state of affairs he has linked to the low disposable income in Guyana and a lack of an enabling environment. “I am reading with concern what is happening with Kaieteur News and its owner; I am reading with concern about several other business owners who are trying to do good and yet they are not being successful, because the enabling environment is not there,” said Ramjattan, whose products have however found much favour on the local market.