“We have to create a better investment environment” – Ali

PPP/C Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali

People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali, says that Guyana needs to create a greater confidence and a better environment for investments, both local and foreign.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Ali said the PPP previously did this and that was before oil and gas. He noted that they had the largest influx of foreign direct investments.
“We had the largest expansion in our economy without oil and gas. We had expansion in manufacturing and value-added and in agriculture and housing and in construction without oil and gas. So just imagine (what we can do) with oil and gas. We have the experience. We have done this before, we have delivered before. We have achieved this before, there is nothing new for us. So in terms of our capabilities to do this, we have it,” the President Candidate asserted.
According to Ali, Guyana needs to ensure that there is a predictable, fair and structured defined investment plan.
“It cannot be unpredictable that today, this goes for company ‘X’ and tomorrow, something else for company ‘Y’. It must be predictable, it must be fair, it must be structured and it must be defined. It must be a defined pathway as to where we want to take Guyana and where Guyana will be. And this is what we are working on, this is what we will deliver and this is what we will ensure is in place when we’re in government,” the PPP Presidential Candidate assured.
Furthermore, Ali went onto point out that as it is right now, the APNU/AFC Coalition government is crowding out the private sector.
“The government is crowding out investment in the private sector, because they’re outstripping the Private Sector in borrowing in the commercial banks. We have to ensure that government does not crowd out the private sector so that the private sector would have opportunity to access capital at a cheaper rate and so on,” he stressed.
Recent events in the local political sphere has caused much uneasiness among local private sector bodies. Many of these agencies have warned that the current political climate has been negatively impacting economic activities here.
But Government has dismissed this with President David Granger last month saying that this was a “misinterpretation” of the situation on the ground, adding that it was “unfortunate” that the business community feels this way.
However, in the height of political uncertainty up until last month when the no-confidence motion cases were in the local courts, several members of the diplomatic community here had also voiced concerns on the impact the political situation can have on potential investment opportunities.
Questioned whether similar feedback is being received from United States investors looking to do business in Guyana, US Ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch’s responded in the negative She explained that she has been predominantly talking to local businesses and US companies already on the ground here and this does not seem to be an issue right now.
According to the new US diplomat, her country will continue to encourage investments in Guyana especially now on the heels of first oil, which she reiterated, will only bring betterment for Guyanese.
“Again, with the 5.5 billion barrels of reserves, and that’s just one sector, but what that will do for the country in terms of other industries being able to be spun off from that and rise and grow is really tremendous. So we’re very much interested in looking at increased trading and investment opportunities for US businesses and we will be encouraging them to look at Guyana,” she stressed.
But in the same breath, however, Ambassador Lynch said that Guyana can do better when it comes to the way business is being done here.
“On the surface, there is some thought that Guyana could do a bit better on easing the way of doing business. So in order words, allowing businesses to start up quicker, faster and making the regulations less bureaucratic so that there are more opportunities for more businesses to get up and going quicker,” Ambassador Lynch asserted during a sit-down interview with sections of the local media fraternity on Monday.
This, the US diplomat explained, would create an enabling environment not just for huge companies such as ExxonMobil – the US oil giant preparing to for production early next year having discovered some 5.5 billion barrels of oil offshore Guyana – but for smaller companies as well to thrive and develop with the potential to create jobs in the long run.
The US Ambassador, like Ali, also pointed out that the private sector generally wants stability and predictability.
“In my experience, the thing what most private sector want is stability and predictability so they can do their business… So those are very specific areas (and) I think it’s something that Guyana should want and make sure that they do continue to make improvements and get a handle on (that), so that trade and investments can thrive here and I think that there is a great possibility that they can do that,” she contended.
Over the years, Guyana has been ranking low on ease of doing business indices. In fact, the most recent report from the World Bank last November showed that there was a decline in investors’ confidence here. The World Bank’s 2018 Report rated Guyana 134 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, eight places down from 2017’s 126 global ranking.