The Guyana government has expressed concerns at the inability of products from the country facing problems entering markets in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
The CSME allows for the free movement of goods, services, skills and labour across the 15-member regional integration grouping and President Dr Irfaan Ali told the launch of the Canada-Guyana Chamber of Commerce that his administration is joining forces with the private sector to break down the barriers to intra-regional trade under the CSME.
He told the launch on Friday that for years, Guyana has been experiencing little success in getting its products into the CARICOM market.
“This has to change. We have facilitated investment from other CARICOM countries without any hurdle. Our private sector never came out and complained. Our private sector never said to the government scale back. The fact of the matter is we have not been treated the same way. It has to change,” President Ali said.
Ali said that there must be a balanced playing field for investors after indicating that it took Guyana years to get ice-cream into the CARICOM market.
“I have asked the Foreign Ministry to bring a list of all the hurdles we have in every single market in CARICOM and we are going to put together a joint team of the private sector and the government to break down those hurdles, to get our products in.
“Guyana is a safe place to invest. Guyana would facilitate investment. We are not going to put hurdles in your way. We are going to facilitate investment but at the same time, your government has a responsibility to ensure that you do not have hurdles elsewhere doing business and this is what we have to work on,” Ali told the private sector organisation.
He urged the private sector to be positive in its negotiations with CARICOM saying “your engagement with CARICOM must be bold.”
“It is time we break down the barriers to trade. It is time we stake our place, whilst we have the capacity and will to invest in food security. The private sector needs to push hard on all the barriers that prevent our goods and services from entering a free market, an open market, a unified market in CARICOM,” Ali said.
Ali said the world is now attracted to Guyana and is expressing confidence in its economy. He said the establishment of the Chamber reflects investors’ confidence in the country’s future and the expectation of high economic prospects.
“The world is expressing confidence in Guyana’s economy. Today, the Canadian private sector joining with Guyanese private sector is expressing confidence in the economy. The Government has to ensure we work closely with the private sector in realising that confidence,” the President said.
Ali said businesses help to create wealth and generate jobs, and that the government’s role is to facilitate the growth and development of businesses.
“I want to assure you that the government of Guyana would not resist but assist foreign investors. There is no point in saying we are a part of a global environment, of understanding we are competing in a global environment, of understanding that we are part of a global network but at the same time, do not recognise that we are also part of global competition.”
The local private sector, he said, needs to be more innovative and become partners who are capable of managing the new economy.
“The nature of the economy in the next three years, the structure of the economy in the next three years, the requirement of the economy in the next three years, note I am not speaking about oil and gas, that is not the economy, the economy is much more substantial than oil and gas… For that, we require people and there is where we have a natural population that we can go back to and that is the diaspora,” Dali told the launch.
Ali said the creation of the ‘secondary city’ is a “near term” plan that will create tremendous opportunities for investment.
He said he was also looking at the creation of an “agro-industrial zone” that will have tax incentives and create new opportunities for investment.
The Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Lilian Chatterjee, told the ceremony that workers from CARICOM and the Americas would be needed to help propel Guyana suture socio-economic growth.
She said the CARICOM country evidently does not have a large population or the required skilled persons to take advantage of the wealth expected to pour in from the petroleum sector.
The outgoing diplomat said that Canada has also had to depend on migrants for its economic development and promised that her country would not flood Guyana with Canadians but would be willing to continue playing its part in this country’s development.
“Many oil-producing countries in the Middle East understood that. So you should accept that others – and I suspect they will be mostly your geographic neighbours from CARICOM and the Americas…to support your growth at the outset until Guyana can supply the skilled workforce it needs.
“Even today, Canada welcomes immigrants to provide the skilled workforce we need to fuel our growth. Don’t resist foreign investment but use your judgement on who you can trust”, said Chatterjee.
She said Canada was not now reaching out to Guyana opportunistically because of the huge oil reserves. “We will not flood you with an influx of Canadian employees. We will provide Canadian expertise but in order to have a true partnership, Canadians will rely on training a skilled workforce in Guyana. But let me be clear: that workforce does not exist right now in Guyana. You do not have the population yet to be the engine of your rapid growth,” Chatterjee said.