Guyana is open for business and willing to work with others to attract investments –President Ramotar

Georgetown, GINA, June 27, 2013

The Government of Guyana has been working constantly to improve the conditions and environment for investments, and will continue to implement policies that are crucial to driving national development through investments in key sectors, as these are important to economic growth and social development.

This was President Donald Ramotar’s message as the inaugural Guyana Investment Conference got underway today at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal.

President Donald Ramotar addressing the gathering at the Guyana Investment Conference at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal

President Ramotar said that much has been invested in infrastructure to enable greater investment in the local productive sector. Using 1992 as a benchmark, he said great work has been put in to restore much of the aforementioned infrastructure along with what was described as social infrastructure. There have been many gains in education, housing, health services and social security since.

The legislative framework has been improved to ease the investment process and this too should be recognised, the Head of State added. He said that despite difficulties, many investors have stuck with Guyana as he named major international investors such as Rusal, Marriot, Bosai, Guyana Gold Fields, CGX, Reunion Manganese and Qualfon which have demonstrated a strong positive response to the environment created by the government.  Local investors have also been retooling and restructuring their operations to take advantage of new opportunities, a process must continue as the nation needs to go forward with its development, he stated.

Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana Mr David Devine delivering remarks at the Guyana Investment Conference

President Ramotar said that Guyana needs new infrastructure to attract even more types of investment while human capital also needs to be enhanced. “We’ve been building technical schools so that investors can be assured of having high quality, technically skilled staff when they come to invest in our country”.

The need for cheap energy should be recognised, he added, as it will help to create a “stronger manufacturing sector, more high paying jobs and develop new industries”. President Ramotar added that even if projected discoveries place Guyana among oil and gas producing countries, it would be a shame not to develop the local potential in hydro power. There is potential to invest in tourism, the manufacturing and food processing sectors, and a deep water harbour, all of which will further boost development.

President Donald Ramotar and Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana Mr David Devine in discussion at the Guyana Investment Conference

These projects and others have been criticised by those with sometimes ulterior motives, and all must recognise the importance of these transformational projects, the President said. With regards the issue of corruption, efforts are being made to address concerns. “What is not recognised are all the procedures and measures that we have put in place to fight corruption in Guyana”. The open tender system and transparent deals are just some examples, he cited.

In closing the Head of State said that government welcomes the support of friends in the international community and stated its readiness to work as genuine partners respecting each other’s sovereignty. “We say clearly and unambiguously that this relationship has helped us to overcome several of the difficulties that we’ve had.”

Visiting President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr. William Warren Smith speaking at the Guyana Investment Conference

He called for greater understanding of local circumstances and situations as some boundaries have been overstepped in his opinion and these give a perception of being partisan. The annual US State Department Report on Guyana and its citing of human trafficking cases was one example given.

Delivering remarks during the ceremony was Canada’s High Commissioner David Devine who said the two-day programme focuses on the steps that Guyana should consider that would help to improve the country’s investment potential. “The forum will also address the impact that social ills such as bribery, lack of transparency and corruption have on investment as globally, the demand for investment dollars is becoming increasingly limited and competitive.  This is true even for countries like Guyana that is blessed with extraordinary natural wealth.   …Countries that are successful in securing investment funds from reputable lenders understand that they have to take the necessary steps to create an investment climate that is conducive to attractive investors”.

A section of the participants at the Guyana Investment Conference

According to the High Commissioner, when investors are pondering investment destinations they will ask critical questions such as why should investment funds  be channelled to Guyana as opposed to some other places in the Caribbean or South America.  “Our aim today however, is not to decry or to single out Guyana or any agency or institution for condemnation. It is the hope however, that this forum will be the catalyst that would bring together partners and stakeholders invested in Guyana to work together to identify the best practices and viable solutions that would improve Guyana’s investment climate for the benefit of all of Guyana”.

The ability to continuously reinvent, to be flexible and to respond positively to economic shifts is particularly important in today’s volatile global economy, said High Commissioner Devine, as investment fund will flow to places where there are the best rates of return in relation to the risk. Reducing that risk must be a priority. “This is where the exercise of looking at how rules regulations and policies negatively affect investment must be taken seriously. In addition, government also has in its toolbox of policies things that can really help to generate high quality investment – bilateral investment treaties, double taxation agreements, intellectual property protection, development banks and sovereign wealth funds to name a few”.

Local laws must be changed to take advantage of internationally accepted best practices and standards, High Commissioner Devine added, even as he noted that adjustments to Guyana’s laws and regulations will not be easy. “Growing economies such as Guyana need to pay attention to the conditions that are necessary for success. These include sound economic fundamentals, combined with a solid regulatory environment that facilitates the conduct of business, built around the cornerstones of free enterprise, free trade and free markets.”

Meanwhile, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr William Warren Smith also addressed the conference, noting the excellent economic performance overall and several areas that need to be improved on. He was high in praise for Guyana’s economic growth which he said was notable particularly given the worldwide economic slowdown. Guyana has had a “Substantial transformation of it debt position”, according to the CDB President, and this was attributed to the macroeconomic policies over the last decade. He noted however, that some areas such the quality of education delivered need to be improved despite the increase and availability of education at the various levels.

Whilst the current economic performance is creditable, Dr Williams noted that easing of red tape and other forms of bureaucracy is among some of the measures needed to ensure even greater economic growth. Since 1970, the CDB has made available to Guyana approximately US$299 million. The recent agreement to issue a US$34 million loan to facilitate the West Coast Demerara Road Programme, the CDB head said, was just one of the ways in which the institution shows that it recognises the importance of funding infrastructural programmes that will lead to greater development across various sectors.

The Guyana Investment Conference is being held under the theme “Maximising opportunities for investment in Guyana” and is sponsored by the Canadian Government.