At least five a week. That is the number of expressions of interest the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) receives about the local Oil and Gas Industry.
Chief Executive Officer of Go-Invest Owen Verwey shared at the agency’s end-of-year press conference on Monday that the agency has processed 120 Investment Agreements in 2017, a large number of which related to service provision for the Oil and Gas Industry.
Verwey explained that Go-Invest does not get directly involved in an extractive industry since that is managed by Ministry of Natural Resources but the other supporting activities is where Go-Invest will support government and businesses particularly in the area of logistics.
He stressed that there has been tremendous interest in service provision for the industry with at minimum five expressions being received each week.
“Most of the companies are interested in service provision to the Oil and Gas Industry. They would come to us to register; to try to understand the market here, look for recommendations for lawyers who can incorporate their companies, accountants who they can work with, staff and recruitment agencies that they may want to work with. That [is the] sort of activities we have been involved in, helping them understand how you start a business in Guyana and what is required…to some extent the basis of the legal framework, the basis of the accounting framework, the basis of the economy, the regulatory agencies. Things like that,” he explained.
Verwey noted that Go-Invest is not part of the regulatory framework which would be involved with “giv[ing] anyone a green light” to operate in Guyana. He explained that companies can come here and establish a business.
“They are into service provision. Many of them are doing services for the oil and gas sector; a lot of them have partnership groups,” he said adding that they find their way onto the streets of Georgetown and the most his agency can do is educate local businesses so they too can take advantage of available opportunities.
Conversely sectors such as agriculture, light manufacturing, forestry and tourism saw application numbers which fell short of what was expected.
“We were expecting a bit more of that. There is some wait-and-see attitude, also there is a lot of people who are [ready to] wait and see about oil and gas rather than going forward with their core businesses,” he explained.
Despite this the agency is determined in 2018 to continue to work to seek markets for local producers in these sectors.
The CEO acknowledged that marketing needs to be a more significant focus of the agency.
“We spend more than 60-70% of our time doing due diligence and processing applications that come forward and we need to find more time this year  of turning it around and being more out there marketing the opportunities in Guyana,” he explained noting that Go-Invest will be working to have market-ready flagship programmes.
We need to move much faster and more aggressive than we are right now, he stressed before sharing that one of these moves will be the Outward Trade and Investment Mission in Jamaica at the end of January 2018.
Explaining that Jamaica buys most of its lumber and forestry products from Brazil and Honduras, Verwey said that they have been told that no one from Guyana really goes to market their products other than one entity that has done a lot with Sandals.
As such this proposed trip could yield a new market.
Despite these and other challenges the CEO expressed satisfaction with the agency’s performance noting that the board had a meeting last Friday at which that satisfaction was expressed.
“Yes I am satisfied. Could there be more, possibly yes. This is an interactive process, this is an evolving process. It is also a government entity so we don’t have endless resources to work with both financial and human,” he said while Board Chair Patricia Bacchus said that she was satisfied and looking to see more done in the future.