By Kurt Campbell
In her final public speaking engagement in Guyana, outgoing Canadian High Commissioner, Lilian Chatterjee teared up on Friday as she delivered parting words to Guyanese. Among her charges to locals is for greater acceptance of foreign investment as Guyana looks to maximise on its potential for economic growth.
She was at the time speaking at the launch of the Canada – Guyana Chamber of Commerce, an initiative that she hopes will be among her legacy in Guyana. The event took place at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.
Chatterjee assured while the non-partisan institution will promote and facilitate investment and trade between Guyana and Canada, there will be no influx of Canadians here. She said Canada intends to provide expertise in several areas and, will in turn, rely on a skilled Guyanese workforce.
That skilled workforce, she acknowledged, does not exist currently and as a consequence, Guyana will have to rely on foreigners.
“Don’t resist foreign investment,” she said as she assured of a level playing field for both Canada and Guyana under the auspices of the new investment and trade arrangement between private sector entities.
“Win-win for both sides is how we will prosper together,” she added.
President Irfaan Ali, who delivered the keynote address, picked up on the High Commissioner’s point of not falling into the trap of resisting foreign investment.
“My government would not resist but assist foreign investors,” Dr Ali said.
He acknowledged too that there will be a period of transition, pointing out that the skills, technology and capital necessary to drive economic growth in Guyana is currently absent.
“There is no point in saying we are part of a global environment and understanding that we are part of a global network but at the same time don’t recognize that we are part of global competition,” the Head-of-State said.
President Ali told the local private sector that it must now step its game up and become equal to its foreign partners. He underscored the importance of this level of collaboration but noted that it must be of mutual benefit.
“Guyana will share in the opportunity but must be even and a balanced playing field… Guyana must be treated the same way it treats others with getting its products into foreign markets,” he added.
President Ali believes that the chamber will stand out among Chatterjee’s legacy here.
The chamber will seek to serve as the “go-to” business institution for trade and investment between Canada and Guyana. It will seek to create an awareness of business opportunities in Guyana and Canada and strengthen relationships between the business communities.
Offices will be set up in both Guyana and Canada and the Chamber also hopes to become a business advisory body to both governments on matters related to trade.
Several local businesses from across the banking and finance, retail, insurance, logistics mining and oil and gas sectors, have been named among 24 founding members.
They include Banks DIH Ltd, Demerara Distillers Limited, Gafoors, GuySons, Mattai’s, Scotia Bank among others. The Canadian High Commissioner is an honorary member.
The inaugural Board of Directors includes Anand Beharry as its Chairperson, Edward Beharry & Company Limited, Sterling Products Limited, Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry Limited and NALICO/NAFICO insurance.