The Government of Guyana and the Government of People’s Republic of China yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation within the latter’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, which is expected to see a major focus on public infrastructure and could possibly see the financing of part of the Linden-Lethem highway and the new Demerara Harbour Bridge.
At a simple ceremony held at the Chinese Embassy in Georgetown, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge and China’s Ambassador to Guyana Cui Jianchun signed the MoU on cooperation within the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, the Ministry of the Presidency announced yesterday.
It noted that the MoU is expected to see enhanced cooperation in policy coordination, facilities connectivity, trade and investment, financial integration and people to people interaction, and with public infrastructure expected to be a major focus.
President David Granger, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, Public Infrastructure Min-ister David Patterson, Finance Minister Winston Jordan and Education Minister Nicolette Henry were among the government functionaries also present at the signing.
According to a Ministry of the Presidency statement, Greenidge said that the signing of the MoU is further demonstration of the two countries’ commitment to further strengthening the ties of friendship and cooperation, which have characterised the relationship between them since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972.
“As both Guyana and China look forward to fulfilling their obligations of enhancing and providing greater opportunities for our people, this initiative provides us with another opportunity to look beyond our immediate vicinity and our historic relations with the traditional metropolis to the vast political and economic space that lies also in the east and elsewhere. I am therefore confident that these areas of cooperation could be a conduit through which the Government of Guyana, with the assistance of your government, could provide some impetus for the continued diversification of our economy. In this regard, we eagerly look forward to the operationalisation of this MOU as the relations between our two countries continue on a positive trajectory,” he was quoted as saying.
It added that with one of the top priorities being infrastructural development for the current administration, Greenidge said that the government is looking to explore projects under the agreement that can build on this priority.
“One of the preoccupations of the government and one of the preoccupations of the populace has to do with the area of infrastructure. The inadequate infrastructure in Guyana has served as a deficit to the attraction of investors and economic operators and it also serves as a constraint to identification and access to markets, so one of our main priorities at this time is to work on the development of infrastructure. That would include a system for designs of roads and harbours and the like as well as access to funding for the construction for such facilities. Through the Road and Belt initiative, the Chinese have made available over $50 billion in funds for the whole region to utilise in pursuit of agreement and initiatives among states of Latin America and the Caribbean, so we are looking at a range of projects,” he said.
The statement said Greenidge hinted that there exists a possibility that the Linden-Lethem highway, particularly the Kurupukari to Lethem phase, as well as the new proposed Demerara Harbour Bridge could be financed under the initiative.
“We have been speaking to all bilateral and multilateral partners. During our discussions with the Brazilians, we did discuss and explored the possibility of using funding from the Latin America China Funds to fund the road. That is something very much on the cards and something we are working on,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador Jianchun, in his remarks, said the signing marked a new and promising chapter to the bilateral relationship enjoyed by the two countries as it will bring mutual benefits and a brighter future form. He noted that the ancient ‘Silk Road’ embodies the spirit of peace, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual earning and mutual benefit and it is his hope that this will continue to characterise the relations shared.
“The glory of the Silk Road shows that geographical distance is not insurmountable. This new step is out of the initiative proposed by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping. Guyana is the first English speaking country in South America to sign the document. The belt and road initiative is a great undertaking, which requires dedicated efforts. Let us pursue this initiative step by step to deliver its achievements one by one. By doing so, we are confident that we will bring tangible benefits to our two peoples and nations,” he said.
The statement said the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a significant development strategy launched by the Chinese government with the intention of promoting economic co-operation among countries along the proposed Belt and Road routes. It noted that it has been listed as one of the largest infrastructure and investment projects in history, covering 73 countries (74 with the addition of Guyana) as well as 28 international organisations.