Interview: David Granger
How can relations between Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and the Caribbean be encouraged?
DAVID GRANGER: Shortly after his election, Prime Minister Keith Christopher Rowley and I agreed to cooperate in the energy sector, as Guyana does not have experience in oil and gas extraction. Our burgeoning energy sector lacks the structure, institutions, legislation and trained personnel it needs to develop. T&T’s expertise in these areas would be highly valuable. We feel we can establish a significant and meaningful partnership to the benefit of both nations.
Guyana has struggled to expand its industrial base beyond a small number of producers. T&T, however, has developed a robust manufacturing sector. With our abundance of commodities, there is particular potential for Trinbagonian companies to contribute to the development of our value-added economy, specifically in food processing and light manufacturing. We have already seen the entrance of various Trinbagonian companies into Guyana, including Massy and Republic Bank, but we would certainly like to see a greater number entering the market.
How do you envision Guyana’s future role in Latin American and Caribbean economies?
GRANGER: Guyana and Suriname have a combined landmass the size of Germany, far outweighing the collective size of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana has huge potential to participate in the Caribbean economy. With our size, we can provide room for growth, specifically in terms of agricultural commodities, agro-processing, light manufacturing and the exploitation of traditional minerals. We have Brazilian and Canadian miners; Russia and China are involved in bauxite; and we would like to see Caribbean companies enter these sectors, whether they are small-, medium-or large-scale producers. We would like to acquire the technology needed to produce fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and dairy products for the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME), our priority market, but we require investment to develop both these capacities along with the country’s infrastructure.
We need to expand our transport network to reduce logistics costs. We are working with Brazil to improve transport links as the development of Roraima state in northern Brazil is partly dependent upon its ability to export commodities to the Caribbean through Guyana. Currently, a road is being built from the Guyanese border town of Lethem to Georgetown to facilitate export. As transport links improve, we will become a gateway for Caribbean industry to Brazil and South America.
In what ways are you ensuring that oil and gas revenues will support a diversified economy?
GRANGER: The Guyanese economy is still producing the same commodities it produced 100 years ago and this has had unfortunate consequences, as demand has declined. Our desire is to move away from our dependence on traditional commodities by diversifying through value-added manufacturing and the development of a services sector. The state wants to redirect revenue from crude petroleum exports to the development of critical infrastructure and education. We have no intention of becoming excessively dependent on petroleum, having made firm commitments to develop a green economy. We have set ourselves a target for 100% of our energy consumption to be derived from renewable energy by 2025. More than any Caribbean country, we have great potential to generate hydroelectricity, both on small and large scales. The 2017 state budget has laid the groundwork for the country’s sustainable energy strategy, allocating funds for various power projects, incentives and tax breaks to encourage sustainable practices. We are also a carbon sink, which means we absorb more carbon than we generate, and governments are willing to compensate us to maintain this. We also plan on using our extensive natural areas to develop an ecotourism and conservation industry.
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