Guyana/US discuss areas of mutual interest, “harmonisation” of plans – President Ali
His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali defined this week’s engagements in the US as “extraordinary” and noted that the aim is to discuss areas of mutual interest, areas of strength and to expand the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
The Head of State said that meetings on the opening day of the visit were very fruitful and highlighted the importance of closer collaboration.
During a discourse on how he envisions the future of the US-Guyana relationship, hosted by the Atlantic Council at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, Washington DC, President Ali spoke about the synergy that already exists between the nations and ways to enhance it.
“The goal of this week is to bring harmonisation between the plans and the programmes of Guyana and the aspirations of the US, both at the governmental level and the private sector. We cannot have a partnership unless the two countries have a fulsome understanding of the development priorities, the challenges and the opportunities and how those challenges can be mitigated and how those opportunities can be advanced.”
The President and his delegation, which includes Vice President, the Honourable Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, met with high-ranking US Government officials, including US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to discuss a range of issues on the opening day of the visit.
Discussions centred on various matters, including climate change, security in Guyana and the rest of the region, food security, energy security and the debt crisis.
The President emphasised that while Guyana is an emerging hydrocarbon market, a very important part of the country’s development trajectory is to ensure that the economy will not be hydrocarbon-based. As such, he pointed to the heavy focus on agriculture and food security while outlining CARICOM’s target of reducing the region’s food import bill by 25% by 2025.
He said that Guyana has all the natural assets to be a leading food producer in the region but lacks the appropriate technology and investment in infrastructure to ensure that the country’s agriculture is sustainable and resilient to climate change and the effects of climate change.
“That requires capital, and this is one example of how the revenues from oil and gas can be deployed to position Guyana, not only for the benefit of Guyana but to position Guyana to contribute significantly to the food security of the region as a whole.”
He noted Guyana’s rich endowment of natural resources and the country’s biodiversity and environmental wealth, which can all drive development.
EXTENSIVE INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO
President Ali pointed to several pillars of Guyana’s diversified economy, which goes beyond agriculture.
“We want to build a knowledge economy that is supported with investment in ICT, making Guyana a natural hub for ICT services. We are also building in our development incentives so that multinationals can move their regional headquarters to Guyana to support their investments, to support their position in the market, in the region, Latin America and Caribbean.”
Essential components of this development and transformation, he added, are good governance, democracy and transparency. He said that the Government is working aggressively on ensuring that the country’s democratic credentials are embedded in the moral aspect of the development of the country.
“That is why the relationship with the US is so critical, because we share common values on democracy, on freedom.” He noted that these common values were brought to the forefront of the meeting today with the US Secretary of State.
The President outlined other critical aspects of the country’s development trajectory, including the benefits of its massive housing programme, expansion of the tourism sector, the national energy master plan and plans for Guyana’s infrastructure transformation.
The Guyanese Head of State reiterated that the United States is a “valued partner” and that the two countries share a “special relationship” and common views on critical issues.
“The US has always been very supportive of the growth and development of our country, and more recently, the US has been very instrumental and supportive in ensuring that democracy prevailed in our country, and that came about because of the fundamental value system of the US. The way the United States values democracy and the political party I come from, we share those values.”
He also spoke of the relationship between the private sectors of both countries, their contribution to Guyana’s development through the involvement in various sectors including oil and gas, as well as the expansion of this cooperation to allow the US private sector to “play a greater role to go after great opportunities”.
“What we’re seeking to do is to expand that participation in all the other sectors, the emerging areas, ensuring that the US is at the table on climate change, on us finding the balance in terms of energy security, working together in dealing with transnational crime. We have had an aggressive increase in our collaboration and partnership in dealing with security issues.”
President Ali added that the Guyana/US relationship is about two countries working together, trusting each other, supporting each other, and sharing a relationship built on stability, values and principles, human rights, democracy and freedom. These shared values, he emphasised, will rebound to the benefit of the private sector of both countries, and ultimately, the people of both the United States and Guyana will benefit from “this sustainable, long-lasting value-based relationship that we’re advancing”. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Honourable Hugh Todd and Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud are also in Washington for a series of high-level engagements at the invitation of the US Government.