Support for COVID-19, renewable energy high on agenda as Japanese Ambassador arrives

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By Kurt Campbell

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Prevented from visiting Guyana for the past 19 months largely because of the border closure in Trinidad where he resides, the Japanese Ambassador to Guyana Tatsuo Hirayama arrived in the country on Monday.

It marks the first business trip for the non-resident Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary since the change in government in 2020 and Ambassador Hirayama is excited about meeting key figures including President Irfaan Ali in person.

His first order of business was to participate in the re-commissioning of the upgraded Canefield, Region Six Substation which promises improved electricity supply for thousands of residents spread across the region and further afield.

The upgrades were done in part with a US$17 Million grant from Japan which also caters for the introduction of renewable energy.

“I was quite lucky to attend the commissioning ceremony,” Ambassador Hirayama said during an exclusive interview with the News Room on Tuesday. The project completion had been delayed for several months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is an important project which increases the electricity transmission in this country,” the Ambassador noted.

He also committed further assistance to Guyana in the area of renewable energy while highlighting the installation of the Japan-funded renewable energy system at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat at Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown.

The Ambassador said Guyana, with whom Japan shares a good relationship for more than 50 years, is a cherished bilateral partner.

“Guyana and Japan have enjoyed a longtime friendly relationship for more than 50 years, we recognised Guyana soon after its independence and established diplomatic relations since then… we have been assisting Guyana in its nation-building efforts and recently with the discovery of the oil resources which has attracted global attention,” he added.

As part of his agenda, the Ambassador who met with Foreign Minister Hugh Todd virtually earlier this year, will meet with the minister for a face-to-face exchange. He will also meet several other ministers of the government with plans to meet directly with President Irfaan Ali.

Ambassador Hirayama will also meet and engage the newly appointed CARICOM Secretary General Dr Carla Barnett.

Importantly and coinciding with the Ambassador’s arrival on Monday, Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony announced that the country’s COVID fight will benefit from a G$205.8M grant from the Government of Japan.

Over the last six months, the Ministry of Health has been working to secure the grant which will be used to purchase equipment for the health sector.

“Some of the things that we’ll be getting through that grant include imaging equipment… ultrasound, which we can use to help with the diagnosis of COVID. We are getting at least four different ultrasound machines; we are also getting some sterilisers and ECG machines. We’ll get some pulse oximeters,” Dr. Anthony had said.

Ambassador Hirayama noted that Japan was also interested in partnerships in the oil and gas industry.

Already, there is a 2018 ‘Oil and Gas Master Plan’ for Guyana, which was developed and submitted by Mitsubishi Corporation and Chiyoda Corporation in collaboration with the Government of Japan.

The plan has among the key objectives the development of Guyana’s domestic oil industry, the creation of a balance in the domestic usage and exportation of products from indigenous oil and gas, the harmonisation of the industry in keeping with Guyana’s ‘green’ development agenda and the quantifying of the economic feasibility of the plans.

The two countries are also collaborating as part of the global agenda on climate change and disaster risk management.

The Ambassador returns to Trinidad on Wednesday where he will continue his work from the embassy there but said he is excited about future working relations with Guyana.

The Embassy of Japan in Trinidad covers a total of eight neighbouring countries, including Guyana and Suriname, as well as regional organisations such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

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