‘No longer a pariah state’

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Director-General in the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon addresses the forum

…Harmon tells TT forum coalition restored Guyana’s international reputation
…wows Trinidad business community to come here and invest

Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon recently told an investment forum in Trinidad and Tobago that the Coalition Government has removed the stain of a ‘Pariah State’ from Guyana to a position of respect and honour in the world’s community of nation.

Harmon, the former Minister of State was accompanied by Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally, Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson and Mayor of Georgetown, Ubraj Narine at a high-level investment forum in Port of Spain last week Friday hosted by the Guyana High Commissioner in that country, Cammie Ramsaroop.

“I invite you our closest Caribbean neighbours; our brothers and sisters of the Caricom family, to join us in this grand enterprise. The areas of opportunity are many and varied, there is a place for all of you and more,” Harmon told the large gathering of investors at the forum held at the Hyatt Regency. Since coming into office, Guyana has climbed the Transparency International rating for its fight against corruption; was removed from the blacklists of the Caribbean Actions Task Force; the Financial Action Task Force and recently the European Commission. Guyana has also for the past two years enjoyed favourable ranking on its anti-money laundering efforts; drug trafficking as well as trafficking in person.

Making a pitch to the investors at the forum Harmon spoke about opportunities in the agriculture sector, noting that there are endless possibilities for agricultural investment in Guyana’s traditional coastal agricultural areas on small and medium scales or in mega-farms in our intermediate savannahs, the range is vast. “Of course, there are also our abundant natural resources, our forests; our gold and diamonds; our rare earths and other mineral resources in our hinterland as well as the attendant need for infrastructural development, such as roads, bridges and aerodromes to enable us to access these resources in our largely un-developed hinterland,” the director general stated.

He said too there is also the new existing area of fresh water supply and marketing. “The world is facing a water crisis and it is suggested that demand for fresh water will outstrip supply by 40% by 2030, while the growth of the world’s population will increase demand for fresh water by 55 percent by the year 2050, placing great strain on global freshwater reserves,” Harmon observed.

He alluded to an address at the world water forum in Brasilia, Brazil in March, 2018, by President David Granger where the Guyanese leader mentioned: “Guyana calls on this world water forum to take action to protect and preserve the Guiana Shield as a vital source of the world’s freshwater reserves. At stake is nothing less than humanity itself”. Harmon said Guyana is part of the Guiana Shield, an area spread over 2.7 million square kilometres, the ‘shield’, described as the “lungs of the earth” and the “greenhouse of the world” is a global resource because of the environmental services it provides. The Guiana Shield is vital to global water security because it contains 15 percent of the world’s freshwater resources.

“I invite you to consider the tremendous economic prospects that exist in harnessing and marketing this resource which will in time become even more precious that oil. Just think of investments in international pipelines and tankers taking water to areas on our planet that would have no supply of their own.”

Tourism
Touching on the area of tourism, Harmon alluded to Guyana recently making impressive strides in the international tourist marketplace when it won the ‘Best of Ecotourism Award’, ahead of all ecotourism destinations worldwide. “This award was a category in the annual sustainable destinations top 100 awards which feature the finest destinations selected by a panel of experts who reviewed sustainability success stories submitted by destinations worldwide,” the director told the audience, which included some of the top business executives of twin-island republic.

Guyana also won the ‘#1 Sustainable Tourism Destination award’ in June this year at the 9th Edition of the Latin American Travel Association (LATA) Achievement awards for the country’s impressive sustainable tourism practices and community-led tourism framework. “These achievements have made Guyana one of the top eco-tourist destinations in the world and have laid the foundation for investments in eco-tourist facilities and businesses to satisfy this demand in a market that is projected to be a significant percentage of the 260,000 tourists who will visit Guyana by the year 2025,” Harmon told the gathering.

Political stability
He said there can be no doubt that the future of Guyana is bright and the potential for investment great, however all of this is premised on political stability, international best practices in governance and a safe and business-friendly conditions with government providing an enabling environment for business to flourish and grow. “Our government has spent the last four years working assiduously to provide that enabling environment. The record will show that we have made tremendous progress in removing the stigma of our country being a ‘pariah state; a ‘narco state’ and the reputation of being the most corrupt nation in the Caribbean, to a position of respect and honour in the world’s community of nations. A position that Guyana enjoyed prior to 1992,” Harmon told the audience.
Earlier in his speech Harmon hailed what he described as the excellent relations that have existed between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago dating back to over forty years and more particularly to the recent enhanced relations between our two countries, brought about the meeting of President Granger, and Dr, Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of T&T. held in Georgetown on September 19, 2018. At that meeting the leaders committed to their “… Support and desire for enhanced cooperation between the two and agreed that it was time to move beyond signing agreements and to work towards a plan of action that will be measured by deliverables.

The discussions between President Granger and Dr Rowley also emphasised the importance of the unity and viability of Caricom as being necessary for continued cooperation and collaboration between member states and providing the framework for the development of all Caribbean states. “These commitments have all served to place Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago on a ‘good footing’ to reap economic benefits through cooperation, joint ventures and direct investment in both our countries,” Mr. Harmon told the forum.

Oil and gas
Turning his attention to Guyana’s new found wealth, Harmon told the forum there is the vast potential for collaboration and investment in the energy sector since Guyana is on the cusp of being and oil and gas nation with the expected production of ‘first oil’ in the first quarter of 2020. He said the framework for this collaboration and investment is provided by the Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation that was signed by President Granger and Dr Rowley back in September. That MoU establishes the process through which Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago would work together to promote “…joint projects through the hydrocarbon value chain” and sets out eleven areas of cooperation including: technical assistance; the exchange of information; training and capacity building; joint projects in the construction of plants and infrastructure relating to transportation, storage and supply; health, safety and environmental matters; and local content.

“All of these areas provide excellent opportunities for investment by members of the T&T oil and gas sector many of whom possess vast experience in all of the outlined areas, either directly or through joint ventures to benefit from our local content provisions,” Harmon said. However, he noted that while the oil and gas sector will provide the resources for the rapid transformation of Guyana’s economy, the vision and policy for the sustainable development of the country is based on the establishment of a ‘Green economy’ and the implementation of a Green State Development Strategy. This strategy aims at guiding Guyana’s economic and socio-cultural development by diversifying the economy, reducing dependence on traditional sectors, creating new sustainable income and investment opportunities and establishing a sustainable low-carbon environment.

Prime Minister Nagamootoo, in his address, noted that Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago are practically family and have had a close bond over many years. Prime Minister Nagamootoo said that historically, Trinidadians have led the way in investing in Guyana and noted that there is already a solid group of Trinidadian core investors in Guyana’s economy. Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Energy, Hon. Franklin Khan, who spoke at the event, praised the coalition government for the heavy emphasis on human development, particularly investment in educating young people. “I want to compliment the Guyana Government for focusing on your human resources and educating the young people,” he said. Khan noted the impressive oil finds in Guyana’s deep waters and the phenomenal rate of discoveries, saying that it was at an unprecedented rate. He said that Guyana has the highest per capita reserves in the world, higher that even Saudi Arabia.