By Vishani Ragobeer
Major disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have serious consequences but President Dr. Irfaan Ali says that small countries, like Guyana, are forced to grapple with shifting policies and are often left reeling from magnified challenges.
While engaging investors during a Guyana investment seminar held at the Carlton House in the United Kingdom (UK), President Ali said that his government was intent on developing the local economy to withstand any future economic challenge.
But those pursuits, he said, are constrained by an apparent global order that small countries like Guyana find it difficult to influence.
The President reminded the gathering that at COP 26 – the recent United Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland – many world leaders called on countries to cease oil production because it is bad for the environment.
Guyana has long emphasised that it can maintain its environmental commitments while pursuing oil and gas development that will fund countrywide development.
But after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting economic sanctions curtailing the supply of Russia oil, the President said the policies have shifted.
“Some of the very leaders are saying that we have to pump [faster] or our economies will collapse,” Dr. Ali pointed out.
And so, President Ali posited that policies “shift overnight.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, too, the President said that Guyana was forced to pay exorbitant costs for coronavirus vaccines because these were not made readily available to small countries despite calls for equitable distribution of the life-saving tools.
As evidenced by the economic fallout from both the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Ali said that smaller countries are forced to face greater challenges such as the exorbitant increases in shipping goods, which contributed to a significant surge in the cost of living.
In face of these shifting policies and the inherent vulnerabilities of the country, the Head of State assured the gathering that Guyana will confront emerging challenges boldly.
To do so, he outlined some of his government’s efforts at defending the country from future economic shocks. He said that the country is seeking to meet its increasing energy demand through an energy mix of hydropower and natural gas, while partnering with continental neighbours: Brazil, Suriname and French Guiana to form an energy corridor.
He also said that the country has been expanding food production to meet local needs while aiding the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) cut its multibillion food import bill.
“These are the opportunities we are preparing the economy (for) and investing in the economy to be future revenue earners,” the President emphasised.