In light of an impending land deal between Guyana and neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), President David Granger last week promised that his Government will make the way clear for any member of Caricom to make investments in Guyana. Appearing on his weekly televised “Public Interest” Programme, the Head of State noted it was time that Caribbean countries make use of the investment opportunities in Guyana: “I did meet with the former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the current Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and said that Guyana has Brazilian, American and Chinese investors, why not West Indian investors. We are not going to put any obstacles in the way for people of the Caribbean particularly Trinidad and Tobago”, President Granger told the panel of journalists.
Back in 2013 under the previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, Guyana and Trinidad signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), where Guyana committed to making available 10,000 acres of land for farmers from the Twin-Island Republic for agricultural purposes.
However, that project is yet to be undertaken by Trinidad, although Guyana has maintained that it remains committed. Asked about that initiative and whether TT was still interested, the Head of State said he has “not become aware of their lack of interest”, noting that Barbados currently has a major investment in the Rupununi region.
“The Trinidadians are welcome to come. They had an interest in Canje, and the intermediate savannahs. It depends on the crop they want to produce. If they want to produce sugar cane to produce ethanol, I would welcome, yes”, the President said. Only last month, when questioned about the deal, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder said he was yet to receive word from his counterpart, Senator Clarence Rambharat, on the way forward for the Guyana-Trinidad land deal.
Minister Holder said his Ministry is still waiting to hear from the new Agriculture Minister there. Holder said he understands that the new Government may want to look over some of the projects in the pipeline, and to this he has no objection. Asked about the last time he communicated with officials there, Holder recalled it was sometime last year.
Trinidad and Tobago’s former Finance Minister Larry Howai had announced in 2013 that Guyana would provide 10,000 acres in Berbice for immediate agricultural production and that “a further 90,000 acres of Guyana’s land would also be made available to T&T farmers. The whole idea was that investors in Port of Spain would be invited to farm the lands.
In December 2014, investors from the Twin-Island Republic visited and had begun screening Guyana’s landscape with particular focus on the Canje Basin and Intermediate Savannahs. Though no agreement was signed, then Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy had said the discussions had taken the countries one step closer to fulfilling the objective of the MoU, which was designed to facilitate TT investment in Guyana for agricultural production.
According to him, the next step would have been the presentation of scoping proposals for potential investment, even as dialogue continued between the two countries. He had also noted that while certain projects had been identified during another visit, the groups are still to submit their proposals to Guyana’s Government. Meanwhile, President Granger also reminded that his government is most certainly committed to the offers by Trinidad to assist in the oil and gas sector. He said in discussions with former Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, she had indicated that Trinidad has petroleum expertise. “Of course we are interested in inviting Trinidad into our petroleum sector although we are in our early days. Trinidad has been developing petroleum for decades and decades. Hope that the arrangement could be made under the CSME”, the President said.