This week’s departure of a consignment of local rice for Cuba lends continuity to a series of developments in business relations between Guyana and Cuba which would appear to be heading in the right direction. The rice deal between the local enterprise Nand Persaud and Company and the Cuban state-run enterprise ALIMPORT embraces a long-term multi-million dollar rice market opportunity for Guyana as well as the prospect of the setting up of a Guyana-owned rice mill in Cuba. It must of course be said that the industry owes a debt of gratitude to the enterprise of Nand Persaud and Company.
There have been other developments in Guyana/Cuba business relations in the wake of the post-economic liberalization worthy of mention including the steady movement of Cuban shoppers between Havana and Georgetown engaging in bulk-buying (mostly from the Chinese merchants who, these days, have taken a firm grip on local wholesale/retail trade) presumably to re-sell in Cuba through the myriad small businesses that have sprung up around the country. There are, too, the Easy Sky and Fly Jamaica deals, clearly intended to take advantage of the traffic between Havana and Georgetown.
All of these have provided every indication of an upsurge of bilateral activity between Guyana and Cuba. They have come at a time when one may have been developing the feeling that other countries in the region – like Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago – had been finding their way to Havana to conclude business deals in circumstances where Guyana appeared to be lagging behind. The hope, of course, is for the acceleration of business ties behind Guyana and Cuba, supported of course by the aggressive pursuit of economic diplomacy by the Guyana Embassy in Havana which now, presumably, becomes the primary purpose for its existence. It has to be said, of course, that from all reports, the Embassy has been actively involved in facilitating the various interludes of interaction between public and private sector entities in Guyana and Cuba.
Just this week we learnt that Guyana will be participating in the international Havana Fair (IFHAV) and that the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) is engaging the private sector regarding representation. The occasion of Guyana’s representation at IFHAV will, we understand, facilitate the signing of an MOU between the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, an event which local Chamber President Deodat Indar told the Stabroek Business earlier this week could open up more trade and market opportunities for the Guyanese business community.
It will be recalled that bilateral relations between Guyana and Cuba, which had its origins in the Burnham era, was built on the bedrock of Cuban support for the local health sector. Indeed, it is unlikely that Guyana will ever forget Cuba’s contribution to training Guyanese medical personnel in an era when training in North America and Europe was simply beyond the means of our economy. The portents would appear to suggest that we are about to enter a new phase in relations between Georgetown and Havana.