– Minister Walrond says major focus on diversification & modernisation
GUYANA’s rapid development has presented an abundance of investment opportunities for members of the Guyanese diaspora to capitalise on, and even get preference for, according to Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond.
At a recent diaspora engagement forum with the Guyana Georgia Tourism and Business Authority (GGTBA), the Minister highlighted, “Government feels tourism is one of the sectors which will help Guyana to develop.”
Currently, she explained, the tourism sector is undergoing a period of recovery and rebuilding, given the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism, however, is only one sector which the government is tapping to help with diversifying the economy and positioning it for development.
“We have major developmental and transformational projects that we have outlined in our 2020 budget, and we have started the work and we are inviting people like yourself to get into consortiums and partner with the government to participate and take advantage of these projects that we’ve made available, especially to Guyanese,” she emphasised.
In addition to the string of relief measures and incentives instituted through the 2020 emergency budget, the government has released expressions of interest for four branded hotels in Guyana, after receiving more than 30 proposals. This, Walrond explained, was another effort geared at developing a local infrastructure to support the tourism sector.
“I must say to you as a diaspora, as the GGTBA, there is a lot, as Guyanese, right now to take advantage of,” she posited, explaining that hotel development is only one initiative the government will be providing incentives for. She even said that once investors have “good, viable” proposals, lands will be provided as well.
Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that Guyana’s economy is expected to grow by 26.2 per cent. Guyana is the only country in the Caribbean and Latin American region projected to have positive real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, and this is due to the country’s nascent oil and gas sector.
“As a government, we decided not to hedge our bets on oil alone and we realise that an economy is resilient as it is diversified, so we are moving towards modernizing our country in the fastest possible time,” Walrond, however related.
And in order to achieve this goal of diversification and modernisation, she emphasised that investment opportunities are arising and the private sector and the diaspora have crucial roles to play.
The resurfacing of the East Coast Highway and the Linden to Lethem Highway are noteworthy infrastructural projects which will not only boost the country’s transportation sector, but will also open up access to new areas, particularly for tourism, according to the Minister.
“As the Minister of Industry and Commerce, I’ve been fielding a lot of these expressions of interest from different partners and I would like to see the diaspora involved in this. We are looking for Guyanese to help develop Guyana,” she said too, while half-joking that Guyanese are given preference.
She, however, acknowledged that investment for major projects requires capital. This means that partnerships with foreign investors may be necessary. Even so, she said that once projects are “Guyanese-doing” and “Guyanese-led,” priority will be given.
Other major areas for development, according to her, include energy and housing. But while these and many other opportunities exist now, she indicated that hordes of foreign investors are already seeking to take advantage. Therefore, she urged them to capitalise swiftly.
Representative of the GGTBA, Gairy Moore, noted that there is significant interest in the business and tourism potential of Guyana from the large Guyanese diaspora in Georgia.
Earlier this year, the Guyana Tourism Authority, along with the then Ministry of Business, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Guyana Georgia Tourism and Business Authority.
The relationship established is envisioned to add value to the tourism sector in Guyana, as well as lift business opportunities among ranks of the diaspora and investors from the State of Georgia.