– says Ambassador George
By Frederick Halley
RECENTLY accredited High Commissioner to Canada, Ambassador Keith George expressed that Guyana has transitioned from being a land of great potential to one of great promise.
During a ‘meet and greet’ with staff of the Guyana Consulate in Toronto and invitees last Thursday, Ambassador George, who was paying his first visit to Toronto since being accredited to Ottawa on November 23, 2022, said the promise was underscored by the fact that Guyana’s economy grew by 62.3 per cent in 2022.
“The non-oil sector grew by 11.3 per cent. It is very important that we recognise the growth in the non-oil sector since it indicates that the pre-oil sectors continue to be resilient.”
Ambassador George, however, pointed out that there is much more that can be done in the area of economic growth and at the level of families.
“As we look forward to continued growth in 2023, we take cognisance of the possibility that many more Guyanese will see their incomes and standard of living grow and improve; as we celebrate the fact that Guyana Natural Resources Fund was estimated to contain over a billion US dollars at the end of last year, we look forward to a larger fund and more investments in the areas of health and social care, education, agriculture, infrastructure, including roads and electricity,” the diplomat said.
Ambassador George reminded that last year saw tremendous growth in tourist arrivals.
“Many of those who arrived were Guyanese living abroad, as there were many who did not originate from Guyana’s shores. We hope that a larger number of Guyanese will travel back to Guyana, if not to remigrate or invest, to reconnect with the land of their birth this year.
“I assure you that Guyana is not the place you knew a year ago, five years ago or ten years ago. Those of you who might have recently visited can attest to that fact. But every Guyanese whether at home or overseas would like to see more. I assure you that the prospects are bright.”
The High Commissioner pointed out that “the prospects are bright because as a people, as a country, we continue to work hard to achieve our goals. Visit any farmland, any market, any mechanic shop, any construction site, any factory, you will see the very vast majority of Guyanese working extraordinarily hard to achieve their goals. And so, it must be and continues to be.”
Pointing out that agriculture has almost forever been the bedrock of Guyana’s economy and will not be allowed to fail because of the value and strength of the petroleum industry, Ambassador George called on members of the diaspora “to consider making some of the beneficiaries of your assistance change agents, rather than be simply recipients of your help, especially in the area of agriculture.
“Canada has made very strong strides in the area of smart agricultural technology. Think of this: What if you direct your efforts at introducing those technologies to some farmers in Guyana as a means of encouraging other farmers to do likewise.
“I assure you that the benefits will multiply because it will also excite and encourage more young people to see agriculture as a career and will thereby build greater resilience in Guyana’s economy because of the economic diversification it will secure.”
Touching on climate change, he said forests play a major role in balancing climate.
“I assure you that there is no contradiction between Guyana’s development of its oil and gas industry and its commitment to reducing green house gases. Eighty-five per cent of Guyana’s territory is forested. Ninety-nine per cent remained untouched forest. If we were to exploit our forest, Guyana could earn between 40-54 billion US dollars annually.”
Meanwhile, the ambassador also thanked Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud “for taking time to be here with us. Our Foreign Secretary has vast knowledge, honed by experiences of the crucial sectors of Guyana’s economy – that is Natural Resources and Agriculture, having once been Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Natural Resources. It is always an educative and enriching experience discussing those sectors with him and the pathways for their development.”
Ambassador George has an extensive foreign service career spanning 29 years, including his recent 10-year tenure as the Ambassador of Guyana to Suriname.
The High Commissioner is also the recipient of Guyana’s third highest National Award, the Cacique’s Crown of Honour (C.C.H).