Foreign investment: The Brazil and T&T initiatives

The visit to Brazil in May by a delegation of heads of various state agencies including the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest), the Guyana National Bureau of Standards and the Lands and Surveys Department and the more recent visit here by a delegation of Trinidad and Tobago business leaders under the auspices of that country’s Chamber of Commerce were both focused, in large measure, on exploring trade and investment opportunities, which is among the issues that have featured in national discourses on the performance of the country’s economy and the prognosis for the future.

The latter exercise, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce visit was largely a private sector affair, even though the need for the Trinidad and Tobago business delegation to better understand the national rules and regulations that attend investing in Guyana necessitated their meeting with state officials including the Minister of Business and the CEO of GO-Invest. In sum, what this visit did was first to enable useful fact-finding bilaterals between Guyanese and Trinidadian businessmen at a time when oil and gas prospects here in Guyana provide a certain attraction for potential investors. Of course, if there is to be collaboration between local businesses and their Trinidadian counterparts that have implications for investment then encounters with the relevant state agencies are important.

In the instance of the Brazil visit, the delegation from the local state agencies got the opportunity to engage with potential investors from Brazil directly on the procedures associated with investing in Guyana and with rules associated with, among other things, the acquisition of lands for large-scale agriculture.

This newspaper has secured briefings on both exercises and in the instance of the Brazilian visit we have learnt that a number of Brazilian companies are interested in investing in Guyana though we were unable, at least up until now, to determine the details of these companies and the particular sectors in which they have an investment interest. Having regard to what, in recent years, has been the low level of high-profile investment in Guyana we consider it important to be put into a position to track and make public the details of the Brazilian interest.

The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber visit is significant insofar as it helps to illuminate the status of business-to-business relations between the two countries against the background of a recent track record that has had its own fair share of failures. Contextually, one reflects on what, at this stage, must surely be the abortive attempt on the part of the two governments to create an arrangement under which Trinidadian businesses could invest in land here in Guyana for farming.

When we spoke with former Georgetown Chamber president Vishnu Doerga about the visit earlier this week he struck a distinctly upbeat note, making the point that meaningful and long-term engagement between businesses from Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago were likely to offer instructive lessons to the local private sector.

With the Government of Guyana now clearly anxious to attract meaningful external investment that can, particularly, boost employment, it is clearly desirable that the outcomes of the Brazil and Port of Spain initiatives fructify at the earliest possible time. Based on what this newspaper learnt from Mr Doerga, an evaluation of the visit here by the Trinidad and Tobago business team should be forthcoming from the Port of Spain Chamber sooner rather than later. That evaluation, one expects, would provide greater clarity on the prospects for relations between the Guyanese and Trinidadian business sectors at a time when the prospects for oil and gas becoming factors in the Guyana economy loom large.

With regard to the Brazilian visit it is difficult to ignore the historic dilatoriness of government (particularly against the backdrop of the sense of urgency that now ought to attend attracting meaningful investments into Guyana) in moving on these matters. We hope that details of the prospective Brazilian investors alluded to in the GO-Invest CEO’s briefing and just where the negotiations are as far as the Brazilian investors are concerned will be forthcoming. It is high time that what the state bureaucrats tell us are the tedious and time-consuming arrangements associated with engaging state agencies is balanced against the ‘state of emergency’ associated with taking the economy forwards.

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