Flayed by former president Bharrat Jagdeo for saying Guyana has no investment projects to offer potential investors, Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin lashed back saying Jagdeo’s party was to blame for not laying the systematic and concretized framework necessary to facilitate structured investment.
The Minister of Busi-ness made a presentation to Guyana’s Heads of Missions as part of the programme at its annual conference last week at the Pegasus Hotel. It was reported in the press that he said that a key problem the country faced was that it had no specific projects for investors to invest in and as such loses out on numerous investment opportunities.
Jagdeo said he could not believe that Gaskin as a Minister of Business would be making such statements. “I find it very difficult to comprehend this statement. I believe there are thousands of good investment opportunities in Guyana. I believe that the sole purpose of the minister of business is to secure investment and expand the economy and if he says that there are no investment opportunities or projects one has to question the rationale for the existence of his whole ministry,” Jagdeo said.
“I believe that Guyana has abundant investment opportunities that with the right policies, the appropriate attitude, the enabling framework and with the right signal from the government we can see a boom in investment, particularly now that we have found oil and we now have an international profile,” he added.
And Gaskin agreed with Jagdeo on having an enabling framework but said the former president was not privy to the total context of his presentation and as such his criticisms were made in abstract.
Nonetheless, he pointed out that Jagdeo should have ensured that the country had the said mechanisms when his party was in government.
“Well I would say that he clearly did not read the entire transcript nor did he understand the context in which it was said. The presentation was made to our Heads of Missions. It was supposed to be a working session, designed to share our challenges and experiences, so that we can have a better working relationship with the mission and ministries. It wasn’t a presentation made to the public or investment community. Clearly it is out of context. It was not a presentation designed for public consumption. I don’t know why GINA [Govern-ment Information News Agency] saw it fit to send out the presentation to … the media,” Gaskin said.
“I said there are no specific investment projects that have been developed, refined, packaged and investor ready at this moment. That is the point was being made. If he had read the entire transcript it goes on to say that because of either the challenges we faced, that we met as a government, that there were no institution developing projects and promoting them to investors. That was not the traditional way Go-Invest had been functioning and we would like [Go-Invest] to be in a position to do so now. So we are in the process of working on specific investor ready projects that can be promoted. That was the point being made in the presentation,” he explained.
The Minister of Busi-ness said the message he wanted to get across was that investors were looking to countries that show the most promise of giving them the highest rates of return and that they wanted to see specifics, such as documents with supporting data before parting with their money. More so, he reasoned, that when foreign venture seekers come to Guyana they want comparable statistics to analyze and mere talk from officials here would not help.
He said that when the PPP left office in 2015, the Guyana Office for Invest-ment was left with no hard data of priority projects or documents to show past investments and their direct return contributions to the local economy. The office also did not hold specific portfolios of investment nor was it aggressively targeting any specific investment group or groups.
Said Gaskin, “Many countries do that and governments decide they want to prioritize certain type of investment and those are the investment they want to promote. Other countries have financial markets that are a little more investor ready. We don’t have active financial markets and we have to rely on specific projects. Govern-ment must have certain priorities that is… promoting value-added projects, our agriculture sector, forestry products, tourism, we know our priority sectors. We need to take it a step further and actually create the projects we want to see develop. We cannot sit down and say to investors, ‘Oh come to Guyana you will have these incentives’ and them expect them to bring their money here and wait for the wheel of bureaucracy to turn and get there projects up and running.
“We must set the groundwork. If we want to them to invest in certain areas we need to take the projects to a stage where they are ready for investment. We need to get them beyond the stage of all the bureaucratic hurdles, so that we are promoting… real, tangible, large-scale investment projects.”
He said he reiterated to the Heads of Missions last week that his government wanted to equip them with the requisite materials to be able to lobby potential investors even as the country forges ahead with its economic diplomacy agenda.
“We know that they want to go out there to promote Guyana. We know that they are anxious and want to compete against the other countries … and we want to give them something to sell, to promote .That is what we are working on. We are working on what we have and we are taking the priorities that we have and turning them into actual projects. So when our heads of mission go to lobby to the global investment community they have tangible investment package to sell.
“If someone wants to for example invest in the agri sector, say grow Irish potatoes here, we can give them data, give them numbers…all that sort of stuff help would to make the decision for the specified projects. They would not have to come guessing where they would get the concession, where they would get the plans… where to get this or that, we can have for them the information required. That was the point being made in the presentation,” he added.