‘No diplomatic blunder’ – Ali says partnership with Saudi Arabia a strategic move

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By Vishani Ragobeer

Vishani@newsroom.gy

Guyana and Saudi Arabia appear to be deepening bilateral relations, particularly as local authorities eagerly seek new investments, and President Dr. Irfaan Ali has defended the growing relationship as a strategic move that will prove beneficial for Guyanese.

“The engagement with the Saudis is not a diplomatic blunder, it is a strategic move.

“…Every single partnership we align ourselves with, every opportunity we go after is strategic,” President Ali said at a sod-turning event on Tuesday.

He underscored that his government is cognisant of the global changes that are occurring and as a result, the administration must position Guyana to capitalise on those occurrences.

Saudi Arabia is among the top oil producers in the world; it is also one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

The President’s statements come after there has been some criticism of the deepening relationship between Guyana and Saudi Arabia, particularly in the wake of a recent visit by a 65-member strong Saudi delegation of private and public sector officials led by Deputy Minister for Investors Outreach, Badr Al Badr.

During that visit, the Deputy Minister said that the country was ready to help Guyana, a key partner in the Caribbean region, to expand.

And President Ali implored the delegation to act immediately in investing in Guyana, noting that the government is keen on the removal of bureaucratic red tapes and favourable terms and conditions for investment.

The President also announced that a Saudi Arabia desk would be set up at the Ministry of Finance, and land would be provided for the establishment of an embassy.

His announcement received criticisms from sections of society who claimed to be concerned about Guyana’s relationship with the Saudis.

But on Tuesday, Dr. Ali addressed the issue and defended the establishment of the desk at the Finance Ministry. According to him, similar ‘country and programme desks’ have long been established in the Finance Ministry to help facilitate engagements.

“Every single bilateral relationship, I can point to a desk that was assigned to remove bureaucracy and advance these projects,” the President said, noting that he once worked in the Finance Ministry.

When asked if setting up that desk at the Foreign Affairs Ministry would be more appropriate, the President stated that the Foreign Affairs Ministry, like the Finance Ministry, falls under the government’s purview.

While he addressed concerns about the Saudi Arabian relationship with Guyana, the President repeatedly alluded to a much bigger problem and as he was leaving Tuesday’s venue, he opined that Islamophobia underpinned the concerns raised about the growing Guyana/ Saudi Arabia relationship.

“This is what the world is fighting – Islamophobia.

“We must never ever allow this country to be part of the problem,” the Head of State, who is the first Muslim leader elected in South America, stated.

Islamophobia is the dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims.

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