‘No lock-out’ – Mustapha says Local Content law not blocking Trini investments

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By Shikema Dey

[email protected]

Guyana has been courting investors in Trinidad and Tobago, making it clear that the country’s Local Content law does not prevent foreigners from doing business here.

During a recent visit to the Twin-island Republic, Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha told investors that the Local Content law was crafted as a crucial tool to help Guyanese companies benefit from the new oil and gas industry.

Even so, Mustapha said, “That does not stop people from the Caribbean from doing business in Guyana.

“We want businesses to know that the law does not stop them, the Local Content Policy protects our Guyanese people and our Guyanese businesses.”

Concerns about Guyana’s Local Content law first emerged back in January when the President of the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), who heads a prominent Trinidad and Tobago business corporation, claimed that it violates some provisions of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, resulting in much outrage from the Guyanese business community and even citizens.

Those concerns zero in on the first schedule of the new law that sets out 40 areas – from transportation to legal services – under which Guyanese companies should be used, detailing the percentage requirement by the end of 2022.

Some of the Guyanese living in Trinidad and Tobago at a meeting with Guyanese officials

And despite the notion being dispelled on several occasions, it is still widely believed to be fact. Hence Minister Mustapha’s clarification to the investors.

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley recently defended the Local Content law, emphasising that it is simply natural for countries to implement same with the potential for citizens to benefit more.

And other CARICOM states had no qualms about the law during President Irfaan Ali’s visit to Belize for a leaders’ summit.

Minister Mustapha’s visit with Guyana’s Foreign Secretary, Robert Persaud was aimed at piquing interest in Guyana’s lucrative agriculture, as efforts continue to reduce the region’s food import bill, which is more than US $4 billion annually.

The delegation from Guyana engaged with over 400 investors and the Guyanese residing in Trinidad and Tobago at a diaspora outreach event on Tuesday.

There, Minister Mustapha made the pitch that the region can capitalize on the 30 per cent predicted shortfall of agricultural production caused by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

Providing an update to the News Room on Wednesday, the Minister said, “with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) saying that food production will fall short this year because of the war, we want the investors to know that there are a lot of opportunities that you can invest in.

Of particular note, the minister said that investors were encouraged to partner with local farmers for Guyana’s soya bean and corn project which has shown major success since the project was embarked on.

The initial 115-acre soya bean and five-acre corn pilot projects were done in Ebini, Upper Berbice River but now the government is looking to expand it on an even wider scale, hence the need for investors.

Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud and Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha meet with Guyanese living in Trinidad and Tobago

He also shared with investors, the government’s recently launched initiative – the Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme – to further boost food security.

Through this programme, the government will provide all the resources and materials to develop 25 shade houses in the first phase that will grow three crops – carrots, broccoli and cauliflower– that are imported.

“So we have a ready market present in Guyana and we imported almost $2 billion in these crops so we have the means, they just need to invest,” he explained.

The minister highlighted as well that the poultry sector is another major area for investment, as many Caribbean countries “import more than 98 per cent of poultry products out of the region.”

“So we want to change that because we are seeing the willingness from the rest of the region to help reduce the food import bill,” the minister said.

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