— President Ali tells Guyana, Suriname private sectors
PRESIDENT, Dr Irfaan Ali, has urged the private sector in both Guyana and Suriname to think big and be bold and aggressive in going after the opportunities on the horizon. The Head of State gave this charge during a working breakfast hosted by the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Thursday. The forum also featured President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi and members of his delegation.
In his keynote address, President Ali emphasised that the two countries have many opportunities that lie ahead, and that it is important to set the right tone in an effort to fully capitalise on those opportunities. A press statement from the Office of the President quoted him as saying that “Today we are two countries; neighbours not talking about competing with each other, but talking about cooperating with each other; talking about coordinating with each other to develop the seamless path for the prosperity of the people of both countries.”
The Guyanese leader, in his presentation, recognised that, in an effort to achieve this, both countries have to be able to cultivate and nurture high levels of trust. “That is why President Santokhi and I made the point that we lead from the front in demonstrating to the people of both countries that we trust the process, we trust each other and we trust the policies and programmes that will be designed to take the countries forward,” Dr. Ali noted.
He said that now that both countries have made commitments at the highest level, it is now up to the private sector entities and agencies of Suriname and Guyana to work towards building trust. “When you build trust, you build partnerships; when you build partnerships, you build capacity; when you build capacity, you build a foundation to win,” Dr. Ali asserted
He explained that realistically, individual businesses will not be able to fully capitalise on all the opportunities that exist; however, if they form consortiums, they can pool together their efforts and take advantage of more of what is available. This, President Ali said, is demonstrative of local content and private sector involvement that are important for both countries going forward.
“’That is why we are connected today. We have to think big; in a bold manner; in an aggressive manner…. I am saying that the opportunities are there. Don’t sit down, do nothing and when the opportunities go away from the local private sector you say ‘where do these outsiders come from and take the opportunities? Why we never had the opportunities?’” The President pointed to the many opportunities that exist within the various sectors including food production, oil and gas, infrastructure projects, security, natural resources and the environment among many other areas. He also encouraged those present to commit to the unification of efforts in the interest of both economies and the people of both countries. “Today members of the private sector, you are the foundation of this partnership. We can create the best enabling environment, the best policy environment, but if there are no takers then we are just creating policies in a vacuum and no one benefits. We recognise clearly that the engines to drive this is the private sector,” Dr. Ali posited. He said that while this may be the case, the private sector must also understand its social and economic responsibility to ensure that grassroots people are included in the prosperity. “Let me assure you that the aggression that is coming after the opportunities from the private sector outside of Suriname and Guyana is unbelievable. The only way you can create a winning culture is if we cultivate the conditions to win,” President Ali emphasised.
Meanwhile, President Santokhi, in his address to the forum, said that the discussions between the two Presidents over the last few days were grounded in a “new future” for the countries. He assured that the private sector will be involved in all initiatives either independently or through public-private partnerships. “Our two governments will be your vehicles to all these markets.” In his welcoming remarks, Vice-Chairman of the PSC, Krishnand Jaichand expressed pleasure that the private sector was being consulted by the Ali Administration. “This is the kind of commitment we are talking about and we are looking forward to the same with our Surinamese counterparts.” Meanwhile, in his presentation, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, noted that it was indeed a great privilege to host such a large delegation from Suriname. He described the discussions with his counterparts as being “extremely fruitful” and productive.
Dr. Singh also acknowledged the unprecedented number of private sector leaders who form part of President Santokhi’s delegation. He referenced the fact that both countries are at a unique juncture economically, particularly with the opportunities in the oil and gas sector. “We have an opportunity to transform Guyana [in a way] that has never been seen before…We would like you to see Guyana as a place to do business, explore new markets, deliver new services and expand business,” Dr. Singh encouraged. Also delivering remarks was Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond, who provided a brief overview of the key investment opportunities in Guyana’s tourism sector –one of the largest export sectors in the country. She outlined the opportunities that exist for strategic partnerships between operators from the two countries and the twinning of the two destinations. “Guyana is serious about our tourism product and where it can take us… we wish to work with you as investors to develop the tourism sector,” she said. Following the speeches and presentations, the PSC programme facilitated a question-and-answer segment, where attendees had the opportunity to interact with both Presidents on various areas of concern.