Guyanese in Suriname urged to tap into opportunities under Local Content Act
– as diaspora updated on massive economic opportunities
The Guyanese diaspora, which, according to Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud, has a critical role to play in Guyana’s economic development, is being urged to tap into the opportunities available under the Local Content Act and the local content framework it supports.
Persaud and Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha met with Guyanese living in the Dutch-speaking Republic of Suriname on Saturday. During the meeting, members of the Guyanese diaspora were also updated on the developments here, as well as opportunities for them to contribute to the country’s ongoing economic expansion.
With some 25,000 Guyanese living in the neighbouring South American nation since the 1970s, who work in the agriculture, fishing, construction and even the oil and gas sectors, the Foreign Secretary explained that the intention of the outreach was to update the diaspora of the countless opportunities that exist in Guyana.
The Foreign Secretary explained that the role of the diaspora in Guyana is critical in allowing the country to accelerate the vision of President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali… a vision of creating opportunities for all people under his “One Guyana” initiative.
According to Persaud, the diaspora should also avail itself of the opportunities that exist in the Local Content Act, which he called an incentive for Guyanese, including those living abroad, to tap into.
The Local Content Act was passed last year. It mandates that oil and gas companies operating in Guyana, as well their contractors and sub-contractors must procure from Guyanese companies by the end of 2022, 90 per cent of office space rental and accommodation services; 90 per cent janitorial services, laundry and catering services; 95 per cent pest control services; 100 per cent local insurance services; 75 per cent local supply of food; and 90 per cent local accounting services. These are just some of the 40 different services outlined in the first schedule.
The Act also sets out the establishment of a Local Content Secretariat, which allows locals to register their businesses and their individual skill sets. This is so there is a ready-made pool of skills and services to draw from, when opportunities become available in the sector.
There are two portals. One register deals with supplier registration and the other deals with employment registration. Applicants have the option of submitting their applications in either electronic or hardcopy form. Once their applications are submitted, applicants will receive an acknowledgement of receipt and a reference number, after which a review process will start.
Meanwhile, Minister Mustapha informed the Guyanese diaspora of the advancements in the agriculture sector, including the wide-ranging opportunities for local farmers and the Government’s effective approach to addressing the rising cost of food prices brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and more recently, the war between Russia and Ukraine.
The Guyanese officials encouraged those who are interested to pursue the opportunities, given the anticipated needs of the various sectors in Guyana. Meanwhile, persons were also updated on the incentives available for Guyanese who wish to return home under the Government’s Re-migration Scheme.
Guyana’s Ambassador to Suriname, HE Keith George, was also part of the interaction and will be coordinating follow-up interactions through his staff, with the Guyanese living in the Dutch-speaking republic.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has been leading a driving effort to return Guyana to its place as the bread basket of the Caribbean. President Dr Irfaan Ali has repeatedly said that in the next four years, Guyana, via the cultivation of more diversified crops, would be aiming to reduce the Caribbean Community (Caricom) food import bill by 25 per cent, called the “25 by 2025” initiative.
Government, in its 2020 Emergency Budget, removed Value-Added Tax (VAT) on agricultural machinery, fertilisers, agrochemicals, and pesticides, making it more feasible for such investments.
Among the Government’s plans is for Guyana to be a net exporter of soya bean in the next five years. With Guyana spending close to US$25 million annually on proteins just for the poultry sector, the Government, since taking office, has been promoting the domestic cultivation of grains like corn and soya bean.
A consortium of investors is already involved in the cultivation of a 115-acre soya bean and a five-acre corn pilot project in Ebini, Upper Berbice River, where harvesting started last year. The project is a joint venture between various local and foreign investors – aimed at proving all raw materials for the production of livestock and poultry feed for the local sector.