ALMOST a year-and-a-half ago, when the PPP/C administration was only seven months in, after having waited five months to take office, following a failed attempt to keep the party out, despite it winning the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, told the first Guianas Summit and Exhibition (on March 18, 2021): “Guyana is, today, one of the most attractive investment destinations, not just in this hemisphere but worldwide.”
Dr. Singh was addressing the first bilateral summit of its kind between CARICOM’s two neighbouring and largest member states, intended to improve co-operation and coordination, not only in their new-found oil and gas sectors, but also to use it to develop the massive potential awaiting awakening in the 145,325 square miles (about the area of California) of natural resource-rich land and limitless oil and gas they share above and below ground and at sea.
Back then, over 17 months ago, the senior minister waved five local signposts:
First, he recalled that the new administration had been taking key new steps and implementing new policies to restore confidence and ensure Guyana was on course to becoming “an attractive destination for investors, potential investors and visitors.”
“First of all,” he pointed out, “this Government is firmly committed to democracy, constitutionality and the rule of law.
“Despite the challenges of 2020, democracy prevailed and a government that is firmly committed to respecting and adhering strictly to democratic norms and standards of behavior was eventually able to assume office.
“To potential investors coming to any country, it is of paramount importance to know that the host country is one that respects the rule of law, not least because the rule of law is so essential to the predictability of the investment climate and the environment for doing business.”
STRONG MACROECONOMIC FUNDAMENTALS
Secondly, Dr. Singh pointed to the government’s commitment to maintaining strong macroeconomic fundamentals, critical to the investment climate.
He said: “We recognise the importance of strong, sustainable, broad-based real economic growth, driven not only by the oil sector, but also by a strong non-oil economy — including agriculture, agro-processing and food production, given our vast capacity for large-scale agriculture….”
He also referenced “tourism and hospitality”, citing “the remarkable endowment of nature – Amazonian rainforest, flora, fauna, spectacular rivers, waterfalls, etc. and Guyana’s strategic location with overland access to both Brazil and Suriname and close connections with the rest of the Caribbean…”
Thirdly, the minister said, the new government was focused on “looking beyond productive diversification to ensure economic resilience,” adding that “ensuring a stable and predictable macroeconomic environment” was another aim, as well as “low inflation, exchange and interest rate stability and competitiveness, prudent fiscal management, and ensuring debt sustainability into the medium and longer term.”
The Senior Finance Minister, back then, also outlined some of the measures the government intended to take, to avoid the perils other countries have encountered, specifically mentioning “the risk of Dutch Disease….”
Fourthly, Dr. Singh said, the administration was “embarking on an agenda for rapid transformation of the supportive infrastructure that is absolutely critical for doing business…”
The minister identified “transport infrastructure – roads and bridges, including for international connectivity” — for particular attention, “as well as to ensure ease of domestic access, energy infrastructure to ensure the availability of affordable and reliable electricity, also the information and communications technology, in recognition of how important connectivity is to doing business….”
The government was also “working assiduously to invest heavily in human capital through injecting financing, to allow for a highly-skilled and educated workforce, which is critical to reducing the cost of doing business…”
Minister Singh also highlighted Guyana’s “heavy investment in the social sector, including education at all levels, and in developing a world-class public health care system, while at the same time implementing policies to promote private investment in these sectors.”
DOING BUSINESS BETTER
His fifth point was a firm reminder of “the government’s aggressive agenda to strengthen and modernise government and business institutions, to ensure investors, doing business in Guyana, could efficiently interface with government services.”
He noted: “Guyana’s strategic location with advantageous links to Brazil and Suriname and the Caribbean” and that “investors based in Guyana would have easy access to a market space much larger than the domestic Guyanese market….”
And he concluded by emphasising Guyana’s overall attractiveness as “an attractive investment destination,” also reiterating the administration’s unwavering commitment to ensure the country “remains a premier destination for investment.”
Today, 17 months later, Brazil is now also on board, bringing (and adding to the equation) its 216 million citizens and 3.28 million square miles (about the area of Canada) to next month’s hybrid ‘face-to-face’ and online second summit and expo.
Two years in office, the current Guyana Government has gone quite far in achieving the five objectives the finance minister highlighted back in March 2021, gaining global kudos for its management of the nation’s finances and efforts to ensure its new wealth is spread further than would ever have been imagined before Guyana and Suriname became ‘Oil Dorados’.
With Brazil on board, its two CARICOM neighbours now also have access to the decades of experience of Petrobras, its state-owned oil company.
The October 4-6 Summit and Expo will allow the presidents and governments, as well as the involved private and public entities and service providers of the three republics, to fully take on board the experiences of the last 17 months into consideration, as they plan for the period between the second and third trilateral events, opening the way for the ripples of the first and second to grow – by the third — into new waves of co-operation and coordination among Brazil, Guyana and Suriname and the 216 million people across the rivers, mountains and skies that mark their common borders.
That much, at least, is sure!