Investors in the United Kingdom (UK) were on Tuesday urged to be more aggressive in their investment pursuits in Guyana with President Dr Irfaan Ali cautioning that they must do so hastily, as it is becoming more and more expense to tap into local sectors.
He made these pronouncements during an investment seminar held at the Carlton House in London. President Ali and a team of government officials including Tourism Minister Oneidge Walrond and Go-Invest CEO Peter Ramsaroop are currently in London where the Guyanese Head of State is slated to present at the prestigious Caribbean Council’s House of Lords Reception and the Guyana Investment Seminar.
Whilst speaking about investment opportunities in Guyana to a group of investors, President Ali explained that his homeland presented a wide range of investment opportunities long before the discovery of oil and gas in 2015 – however, there was little to no international interest being shown.
And while he noted that there is an abundance of opportunities in the country’s emerging petroleum sector, President Ali reminded that there are other lucrative industries in Guyana such as agriculture.
“In just 20 months, we’ve embarked on a programme of crop diversification and in two years, we will produce all the corn and soya we need in Guyana for the feed production for our poultry and livestock sector. This is the type transformation I’m talking about,” he detailed.
He also spoke about the government’s plan to get into wheat cultivation, to guard against shocks from the international market. Guyana currently imports wheat and is being significantly affected by the surge in prices globally.
Speaking about its sugar industry, President Ali said, “there are persons in this room here who we’re hoping will come to Guyana as private investors to invest in some of the estates, to add values to the estates, to diversify the product portfolio.”
The Guyanese Head of State also revealed to the investors his plans to tap into the hemp industry as well as other nontraditional crops.
Plans to the develop the local manufacturing sector were also announced as President Ali spoke of the initiatives being undertaken by government to significantly slash energy costs.
The Guyanese President also spoke about the country’s macro-energy policy which includes collaboration with Brazil, Suriname and French Guiana.
“When we combine our gas with the gas from Suriname, we are now studying whether we now have the potential to become an energy hub for the Guiana Shield and create a new energy corridor that will supply northern Brazil…So, our energy policy is integrated into the regional energy demand,” he explained.
President Ali also spoke of the construction boom and the enormous opportunities this opens up for investors.
Another sector which the government intends to enhance is Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which President Ali explained will be a new and significant pillar of the Guyanese economy.
“We’re now working on a programme on which we want to see every single student coming out of primary school having training in elementary coding…and secondary students graduating must have not only basic but foundational training in software development. It is ensuring that we train the human resource base of the country for the future opportunities also,” he revealed, noting that this thrust presents opportunities for investors.
Health is another area of focus for the Ali-led government. “We have a huge diaspora that is five hours away from us, the US, Canada…they go to India for medical services or sometimes for dental services, you can’t afford…so, we want to create a health sector that is world-class.”
Education and tourism are also two integral sectors which government intends to significantly develop.
“We want to have the best education providers stationed in Guyana and having education as foreign currency earner…tourism is integral and important for the future of our country…in order to build this sector, we are now working with the best internationally to market our product.”
Being very blunt, the Guyanese Head of State contended that UK investors have not been aggressive enough in pursuing opportunities in Guyana.
“The UK has earmarked, notionally maybe $750 million as development that Guyana can qualify for, through investment, infrastructure development, infrastructure transformation. But what is missing is the aggressiveness from the private sector here in the UK and the EU generally.”
“Many people ask sometimes why the Chinese investors find the market faster than anyone else. Well, I can tell you from our humble experience, their aggression is far different.”
In giving an example of how aggressive international investors need to be, President Ali said, “we recently finalised financing for a new children and maternal hospital and those financing are coming from the EU at better terms than the Chinese.”
Meanwhile, President Ali called on the UK investors to quickly identify opportunities in Guyana and start investing, noting that it is becoming increasingly expensive to invest in Guyana by the day.
“The country is in a very important stage now, those who are going to invest today, you’re a few dollars more in your expense column that three years ago, because it is going to become more and more expensive to invest.”