–President Ali tells T&T’s Manufacturers’ Association
–advises stakeholders that imprudent regional trade barriers could be removed through capacity building
PRESIDENT Dr. Irfaan Ali has said that Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago should ‘marry’ their competitive advantage in developing industries to create opportunities for both countries’ manufacturing and services sectors.
The President delivered an enthralling address at the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) President’s Dinner and Awards Ceremony on Tuesday evening, where he lobbied for members and stakeholders of the CARICOM region to see their economic space operating as one.
President Ali, who focused on intra-regional food trade, also highlighted the glaring disparity in the import and export of food regionally and again lobbied for more to be done to lessen the importation bills.
He said that there are numerous products that could be produced in the region using home-grown or homemade materials and resources.
To this end, Dr. Ali related: “There are many areas we can have import substitution. Why is it not happening? If you look at the possibilities for Guyana and Trinidad—you have better-developed port facilities, low cost of energy and location advantages. We have strong bilateral co-operation. We have cross-border investment arrangements.”
Manufactured goods, he said, is being imported seven times more than it is being exported, despite there being countries in the region with abundant natural resources and energy costs that are on par with developed nations.
“We cannot move forward reasonably as a people; we cannot move forward reasonably as a collective if we are not willing to act in a selfless manner. The opportunities will slip by… I have the barriers by country, I have the impediments to trade by country for exports and imports and some of this is nonsensical.
“Some of these barriers that are imposed can be withdrawn overnight if you are serious about building capacity and opening up opportunities,” Dr. Ali reasoned.
Enhanced regional integration is needed now more than ever given the supply chain crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in shortages and rising inflation on goods and services.
“That is why we have to wrap ourselves around a common objective to see our operating space as one and remove those barriers that have kept back the food production system. And those barriers have been nothing but a hindrance to our countries in the region. If we are not prepared to do this—then we are not serious,” Dr. Ali posited.
President Ali also took the opportunity to provide an update on several projects that his government has embarked upon in keeping with its development trajectory.
The President focused particularly on the development and diversification of the country’s agriculture sector and other non-oil sectors.
“It is important to note too that we have committed ourselves totally to CARICOM. I’ve said on more than one occasion that the prosperity of Guyana is going to be the prosperity of CARICOM. We take our responsibility in CARICOM seriously,” Dr. Ali said.
He added that the government has been proactively expanding infrastructure, which includes constructing new farm-to-market access roads, new drainage and irrigation systems, while it has also made investments in smart and resilient agriculture and major facilities to create an enabling environment for investors.
The President related that the development of Guyana will stimulate manufacturing and industrial development in the region. He said that this will be done through greater private sector partnerships.
Speaking about the government’s agenda, Dr. Ali said: “As a Government, we have made it very clear that the achievement of all our targets, the achievement of all of these lofty ideas and vision must come with great partnership with the people of our country and the people of this region. And we have committed ourselves to working with every stakeholder.”