By Vishani Ragobeer
With emphasis being placed on developing the forestry and manufacturing sectors to meet local, regional and international demands, President Dr. Irfaan Ali has floated the idea of exporting locally-made houses to the Caribbean region.
The President said this while delivering the feature address at the Barama Company’s anniversary celebrations on Sunday. There, the President said that his government will do all that it can to fuel the growth of Barama and others in the sector.
Importantly, however, he emphasised the need for the local bodies and businesses to form consortia that would be able to tap into new and emerging business opportunities. And one such opportunity, he said, is the development of new products.
He highlighted that one of his government’s plans is to create 1,000 model houses in the new city that is being developed. Those homes, he explained, are expected to be made almost entirely from local products and using local labour.
Additionally, the President related that these houses are not only being constructed to meet the local housing demand but to also illustrate Guyana’s capabilities to the regional market, and tap into the demands of that market.
To this end, the Head-of-State said: “That is where the conversation has to go.
“How do we integrate all the players to come together in a consortium in which we build an affordable home (and) we can package that home in a crate and export it to the region?”
Elaborating on this, the Head of State reminded the gathering that the region is exposed to many vulnerabilities including natural disasters such as hurricanes. And as such, these houses would have to be constructed to respond to those challenges.
Importantly, too, he noted that the houses must be of high-quality, efficiently shipped and can be assembled in a fast and efficient way. If these prerequisites are met, he said that the government would then be able to engage the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on taxes, barriers and trade issues on these products.
Already, Barama plans to make an investment of $1 billion to expand its local operations and make a return to the logging industry. This, the company’s General Manager Mahendra Chand said, is due to the company’s recognition of the opportunities for growth that exist in the sector.
Meanwhile, the President also underscored that the government recognises the negative effects of the high cost of energy on manufacturing efforts. As such, he posted that this is why his administration is moving towards the proposed gas-to-shore project, the Amaila Falls Hydro Project and others in a bid to halve the cost of electricity.
It is expected that a reduction in the cost of energy would enable businesses to create and market products, not unlike the houses for export that the President spoke about.