Guyana ready to partner with St Lucia to drive its housing industry – Pres Ali

…as over US$140M in trade recorded between these 2 countries in last decade

President Dr Irfaan Ali, current Chairman of the Caribbean Community(Caricom), addressed the St Lucia Parliament on Wednesday — St Lucia’s 45th Independence anniversary — and called for the region to unite in tackling systemic regional disparities.
President Ali, who arrived on the island as a special guest on Wednesday, used the occasion to urge St Lucia and the region to work together to address systemic regional challenges.
“We have to face the same difficulties that those not part of the region don’t face. If you look at the time it takes to open a bank account in the US versus the time it takes to open a bank account in the region, it’s chalk to cheese. And then we speak about how there’s no disparity in the system. There’s systemic disparity in the system!” he contended.
“The only way we can address systemic disparities is if, as a region, we stand up against systemic disparities. Slavery was defeated because we came together as a community, as a people, as regions together, and fought the system of slavery. We have to fight the system of inequality,” President Ali said.

The President also made a pitch for increased partnerships between the Private Sector of Guyana and its St. Lucia counterpart. This could see the two countries tackling regional hurdles to food production, and even working together on the housing market, which he noted has huge export potential.
As it is, trade between Guyana and St. Lucia has been recorded at over US$140 million in the last decade.
“In the last 10 years, if you look at our trade numbers, Guyana would have exported commodities to the tune of US$71 million to St Lucia. Interestingly, St Lucia would have exported to Guyana products at a cost of US$79 million,” President Ali stated.

Although St Lucia’s exports to Guyana have exceeded those of Guyana to St Lucia, President Ali is confident that Guyana can earn more from St Lucia, in a more contracted period than 10 years, by catering to the country’s housing market.
“If you look at your existing housing market, and let us say conservatively you have a deficit in the housing market of 2500 homes; in the next three to five years — that’s the immediate or medium-term need — and you use a conservative figure of US$30,000 for a low-income home, that is what we’re building: prefab homes in Guyana,” President Ali explained.
“You’re looking at an export potential of US$75 million in the immediate and medium term from Guyana to St. Lucia. That export potential in this one area alone is more than the combined export in the last 10 years. And these are the opportunities, the real opportunities, that exist in expanding the relationship and trade between Guyana and St. Lucia,” he explained.
President Ali noted the importance of exploring how to use these opportunities to build wealth and integrate Guyana’s manufacturing with housing solutions in St. Lucia. This, according to Ali, is where the importance of policy makers creating an enabling environment becomes most pertinent.
Even as Guyana looks to expand housing solutions beyond its borders, there is an ambitious and aggressive housing drive locally. On the promise to distribute 50,000 house lots in five years, the Government is on track to fulfill that commitment, as more than 30,000 families have been allocated house lots to date.

Importantly, the Ministry of Housing and Water is constructing houses for low-income families as well as for young professionals. Together with subsidies for steel and cement and low interest rates for mortgages, the housing sector has catapulted many into tremendous prosperity.

Technological platform
President Ali has posited that the region must come together on a common technological platform in order to accelerate regional integration. He has also emphasized his goal for Guyana’s healthcare system to be able to support the region. According to the President, the intention is to fulfill the region’s healthcare needs at a fraction of the cost paid for it outside of the region.
“We, in Guyana today, we’re building a healthcare system that we want to be world class. But this system is not built (just) for Guyana. We’ve said it before: the prosperity that Guyana is seeing today must be the prosperity that the entire region enjoys. So, we’re going to build a healthcare system that can support the regional healthcare system,” President Ali has posited.
“How is it that we ensure the integration of your healthcare system with our healthcare system? As I speak to you now, we’re working on a programme that allows telemedicine to be operable in the hinterland of Guyana, linked to the best hospitals and also linked to India, the US; major hospitals out of India and the US,” the President said, adding that there is an opportunity for St. Lucia to also become involved in this programme. (G3)