By Vishani Ragobeer
Though some local products are of high quality, they are not exported and commonly sold abroad but Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, has called on members of the diaspora to aid in the export and international marketing of these products.
While speaking at one of the breakout sessions at the inaugural virtual diaspora conference on Saturday, Dr. Singh highlighted that while primary goods have been the major export commodities of Guyana, there are still a number of “exportable-quality” products that are produced locally but which are not marketed on international shelves for a number of reasons.
He gave the example of plantain chips and coconut products such as coconut water and cream, which are made and packaged locally but are not necessarily popular in countries such as the United States. And this, he said, can be changed.
“You have an opportunity in the diaspora to explore avenues for Guyanese products to increasingly be on these shelves,” he emphasised.
According to information from the Guyana Bureau of Statistics, for the year 2019, 97 per cent of Guyana’s exports were primary goods and raw materials such as rice, sugar, seafood, and gold. Prepared food and bottled rum and spirits, only accounted for 1.8 per cent and 1.2 per cent of exports, respectively.
Earlier, while providing the keynote address at this conference, President Dr. Irfaan Ali told members of the diaspora that one of the government’s aims is to ensure that cheaper and reliable energy can be provided to Guyanese.
Adding to this, the Finance Minister related that cheaper energy costs would also help to propel the local manufacturing and agro-processing sectors. These sectors, he explained, are particularly important since they are viewed as important avenues that will help to transform the non-oil sector.
Already, he said that the government expects significant investment and growth in these areas and it is for this reason, he explained, that efforts are being made to ensure that Guyana has the necessary infrastructure in place, including cheap and reliable energy.
Dr. Singh also emphasised the government is not focusing solely on developing the burgeoning oil and gas sector and those sectors closely aligned to it. Instead, he highlighted that the government is working to ensure that the other sectors are conducive for investment and growth and can be competitive.
Other key sectors through which Dr. Singh said there are opportunities for investment and growth include: the tourism and hospitality sector, and the transport, communications, and logistics.
“In literally every sector of economic activity, there are opportunities for investment and opportunities for growth and at a governmental level we are prioritising and emphasising the importance of growth in the non-oil sector,” the Senior Minister said too.