GuyExpo networking forum highlights areas of investment
Not only is Guyana geographically well placed but it is also strategically positioned, thereby providing a critical link between South America and the Caribbean.
This observation was made by Minister with responsibility for Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Irfaan Ali during a GuyExpo Business forum at the Guyana International Conference Centre yesterday.
The new feature, which comes one day after the opening of the 2012 Guyana Exposition (GuyExpo), was designed to enable the country to network with visiting delegates from across the Caribbean as well as Suriname, Canada and the United States.
In his address to the gathering of mainly GuyExpo delegates, Minister Ali highlighted that the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) is key to Guyana’s development agenda. According to him, this move is geared at ensuring that there is a hub to serve many unexplored markets.
“Once this is realised it will give us access to northern Brazil, which has a population of 4.9 million people”, Ali stressed, as he revealed that the CJIA is engaged in ongoing dialogue with British Airways, Jet Blue, Virgin Atlantic, West Jet, Fly Jamaica, Copa Airlines and Air Canada.
These discussions, he said, are aimed at making sure that the right environment and investments are ready when the airport project is completed, thus creating the critical link between South America, Africa and Guyana.
Ali noted, too, that in addition to the Brazilian population, a further 10 million people could be reached on the western front of the United States, some of whom will have to access Africa via lengthy flights, lasting in excess of 24 hours. However, once such flights are channelled through Guyana, Ali expressed confidence that the flight hours could be drastically reduced by half. “Imagine what this means for Guyana and the aviation industry; imagine the potential that this opens up to us,” the Minister mused.
In his attempt to promote Guyana to the delegates, Ali told the gathering that Guyana is currently working towards creating niche markets and will seek the necessary assistance to direct customers to such markets. He also spoke of the diversification of the agriculture sector, pointing out that Guyana currently has nine mega farms, with foreign investors.
One of these farms (100,000 hectares of land) has already been signed over to a Malaysian Company for the production of agricultural produce to meet the regional food market, Ali said. He disclosed that there are also nine such investment proposals that are currently under review and the specific targeted crops include spices, corns, soya beans and selected fruits and vegetables.
“This is not a short-lived growth path that we are on…but the mechanisms, the projects and the plans are there to ensure that this growth path continues long into the future,” the Minister added, as he made reference to the energy sector. He alluded to petroleum and gas, pointing out that Guyana’s oil and gas deposit reserves are estimated at 2.2 billion in barrels or 28.3 metre cube (m).
“Imagine us exploring and actually getting this natural asset…the transformation that would take place in this country…that is why your visit now is so critical. The cost of investment today compared to the cost of investment in five years, when the economy would have advanced to another level, would be far more expensive than it is today,” the Minister stressed as he sold his point to the delegates.
“Yes you might say that you have low returns now, but think in the future when you have higher returns with a lower cost of investment at today’s price. But if you wait, then you will be locked into a very competitive environment in the future with less fiscal incentives,” Ali added.
His attempts to sell Guyana to the foreign delegates were equally mirrored by President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Clinton Urling and President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association, Mr Mohindra Chand, both of whom sought to highlight attractive investment capabilities.
Yesterday’s forum also saw presentations by representatives from Suriname, St Lucia, Canada and the United States, all of whom seemed heartened by the local investment climate.