President Dr Irfaan Ali said that Guyana’s future development trajectory is predicated on strengthening traditional sectors and building new ones, as he urged United Kingdom (UK) investors to be more aggressive in their approach.
The Head of State made this assertion while speaking about Guyana’s potential and investment opportunities during his feature address at the Guyana Investment Seminar, held on Tuesday at Carlton House in London, England.
He agreed that while the UK has earmarked millions of pounds that Guyana can qualify for through investment, infrastructure development and infrastructure transformation, there is a lack of aggressiveness from the UK and European Union (EU) private sectors.
“Many people ask sometimes why Chinese investors find the market faster than anyone else; well I can tell you from our humble experience, their aggression is far different.”
He then pointed out the benefits of investing in a developing Guyana.
“Our development is about creating a broad platform for the future; a platform in which we are going to strengthen traditional sectors, make them more competitive…we’re going to go after new sectors,” President Ali added.
Among the sectors, he outlined, included Information Communication Technology (ICT), education, healthcare, and tourism.
ICT was described as one of the “new pillars” that will support the economy. He also said that Guyana wants to create a health sector that is world-class and a “knowledge sector” where education will play an important role.
The President highlighted Guyana’s proximity to the US as a positive for visitors, who are looking for an alternative in medical services, and the country’s geographic position of bridging South America with the Caribbean.
HOSPITALITY TRAINING IN CANADA
In the tourism sector, President Ali announced that Canada will help to train Guyanese in hospitality management. He said that Guyana has launched a programme to get 6000 Guyanese trained in the sector. This, he stressed, was necessary to not only create the opportunity but to build institutional capacity and human capacity to meet the opportunities ahead.
STRENGTHENING TRADITIONAL SECTORS
While the President acknowledged the challenges facing the country, he assured that “those are the challenges that we will confront boldly. And those are the challenges our development trajectory will address and must address.”
He pointed to the strides made in the agriculture sector and Guyana’s lead role in CARICOM in advancing the food production and food security agenda in the Region.
“The heads of CARICOM came together, and we have decided that by 2025, we want to reduce the food import bill of CARICOM by 25 per cent. So, the initial target is 25 by 2025. And Guyana has leadership in ensuring this target is met.”
He noted that Guyana has presented an action plan to reach the target while pointing to the importance of food security and agricultural diversification at the national level.
“We have some of the largest distribution companies now ready to bring in the capital to replant coffee, cocoa, to ensure that we become self-sufficient in corn and soya as input costs for feed production for poultry and livestock. And that is where the country is going. In just 20 months, we have embarked on a programme of crop diversification.”
Within two years, the President added, Guyana will produce all the corn and soya needed for the feed production for our poultry and livestock sector.
He also highlighted the collaborations withBarbados on creating the first Guyana/ Barbados food terminal as a pilot programme that will be replicated throughout the Caribbean, with Guyana becoming the food capital of the region and working with Brazil to sign an agreement to enhance Guyana’s livestock breed, expand the production of mutton and mutton products to meet the full regional demand.
BUILDING A RESILIENT ECONOMY
“This is the type of transformation I’m talking about. This is where the revenues from oil and gas will go to build other sectors, ensuring other sectors are competitive, ensuring that those sectors are resilient.”
The President reiterated that Guyana and the opportunities Guyana presents existed long before the discovery of oil and gas.
He added that with 30% of the world’s wheat taken out of the market, owing to the Russian-Ukraine crisis, global prices have skyrocketed and countries that rely on wheat heavily, like Guyana, are feeling the brunt.
The Head of State added, “We have just launched research on finding a wheat variety that can be grown in Guyana, to satisfy our local demand to start with. So that the next generation of Guyanese must not be in a position that we are in today, where we are faced with these shocks and sudden increases in prices. And that is where the resources must go, building… an economy that is resilient and sustainable.”
With regards to the energy sector, the Guyanese Head of State acknowledged that Guyana has the highest cost of energy in the region, which places the country at a disadvantage in the manufacturing and industrial sectors. He pointed to efforts underway to address this challenge.
“We have already committed that by 2025 the cost of energy must be reduced by 50%. And by doing that, it will put Guyana on equal footing to compete with other countries where manufacturing and industrial development plays a vital role.”
He outlined an energy mix, including natural gas and other renewable forms of energy as the country’s future.
MACRO ENERGY POLICY
The President also disclosed that a major macro energy policy which includes Guyana, Northern Brazil, Suriname and French Guiana is being crafted.
“We’re now studying whether we now have the potential to become an energy hub for the Guiana Shield and create a new energy corridor that will supply northern Brazil. So, our energy policy is integrated into the regional energy demand.”
The President also outlined Guyana’s many attributes, including its natural resources, climate services, and biodiversity. He said the investment forum is not only about understanding the opportunities that exist but about understanding how to access those opportunities.
“We welcome your investment. We are open, and we are ready to have a conversation on how you can be part of Guyana’s development.”
The event was organised by The Caribbean Council— a trade and investment membership organisation that supports responsible and sustainable private sector-led investment and development in the Caribbean and Central America.
Minister of Tourism, Industry, and Commerce, the Honourable Oneidge Walrond, and other Government officials were also at the event.