Guyana’s president, Dr Irfaan Ali on Friday evening challenged the private sector to build a winning culture and to take advantage of non-traditional opportunities that will become available as Guyana continues its rapid growth and expansion, fuelled by over 10 billion barres of oil found off the country’s coast.
The president, who explained in detail the developmental opportunities during his keynote address at the annual Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association (GMSA) Dinner and Awards Ceremony at the Ramada Princess Hotel in Providence, also promised his government’s support, the Department of Public Information said in a press update.
“You have a government that is ready to listen, even learn and adapt to the changes that are required to help you succeed,” Mr. Ali said.
He agreed also that the event’s theme, ‘Changing the paradigm for advancing, sustainable industry; transformation and growth,’ should reflect the drive of the public sector.
The president appealed to the gathering to not see themselves as competitors but as manufacturers/ small business owners who can pool their human, financial and technical resources together to build the capacity of the industry.
“That immediately takes the country to another stage. I spoke about this issue on numerous occasions. You have to form yourselves into corporations. Yes, the family business is good, but time and circumstances are changing,” he said.
The president credited the local businessmen, who formed a consortium and have embarked on a pilot project to produce soya beans and corn that will be used to make feed for the poultry industry. He said that although they are competitors, they understand the bigger picture and the investment potential.
Future of agro-processing and agriculture
Mr. Ali highlighted opportunities in a number of industries and pointed to the necessary measures needed to develop the winning culture. Emphasis was placed on the agro-processing industry, which he said can become a sustainable and wealth-creating industry if persons are willing to invest.
“There is a misconception of what modern agro-processing and agriculture are… we have been working overtime on opening up opportunities in the UAE. We had the Qatar Investment Fund coming in, and they went crazy when they saw the freshwater potential of the country, and now they are looking at us as a possible hub to produce food for them,” he pointed out.
Mr. Ali related that a number of international investors have clearly stated their interest in investing in agriculture and agro-processing in the country. He also added that soon the sod will be turned for a US multi-million-dollar investment in agro-processing.
“There is potential there. How do we capture it? Prime Minister [Mia] Mottley [of Barbados] has not only assured, but we have set ourselves a timetable to dismantle all barriers between Guyana and Barbados to export and import our products,” he stated.
Regional integration and barriers
The president stressed that regional integration and other “fancy talk” cannot be taken seriously unless the current barriers are removed.
“And we are going to lead the charge to remove the barriers for our products all across the region” he said, pointing out that there will be consequences for thinking that the barriers can be kept forever.
To address this issue, the president said his government will make necessary investments to help remove “all the excuses that exist”.
“It is not because we want to have a bigger market share; all we are asking for is fairness in the system.”
President Ali said he wants the local private sector to build a winning, open and transparent culture and appealed for them to bring their ideas to the government.
“What is about to unfold in this country is unbelievable,” he said.
Mr. Ali reminded too that the government is making large investments in healthcare, education, the country’s human resource capacity, infrastructure and agriculture, and other non-oil sectors, which will create enormous opportunities for the local private sector.
“All I am asking you is to be part of the forward movement. We can sit in a room and laugh and joke together; why can’t we sit in a room and build together?” he asked those gathered at the event.
“My attitude is I am only moving forward, ploughing forward, pushing forward for the people of this country—I do that every day,” the president said.