Caricom-Saudi Summit: C’bean countries benefit from US$2.5B for development projects

Caribbean leaders with Saudi Arabian officials at the first Caricom-Saudi Summit held in Riyadh

The recently concluded Caricom-Saudi Summit has seen several countries in the Caribbean walking away with financing for development projects in a number of sectors.

This was revealed by President Dr Irfaan Ali, who had led Guyana’s delegation for the inaugural summit held on Thursday in Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The summit saw the participation of a number of Heads of Government from across the Caribbean Region.

At the end of the one-day conference, a joint statement from Caricom and the Saudi Arabian Government stated that the leaders committed to enhancing bilateral ties between the two Regions by exploring further cooperation in areas such as agriculture, tourism as well as trade and investments, among others.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

President Ali, during a press conference on Saturday in Georgetown, hailed the summit as a “tremendous success.” He said Caricom leaders left there feeling a sense of pride that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia understands fully, the value of the Region as an important development and strategic partner in addressing many of the challenges that the world faces including energy, food, climate security as well as the preservation of culture and art.

“The summit has led to a series of proposed actions that will see the deepening of our relationship as Caricom in the establishment of our collective presence in Saudi Arabia and the establishment of Saudi Arabia’s presence in the Region, physical presence that is.”

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made available not only all their technical and ministerial resources but their private sector resources and financing. Setting aside $2.5 billion for the development of the Region, approving a number of projects for different countries,” the Guyanese leader stated.

According to Ali, this is the time for not only Guyana but the Caribbean Region to seek out non-traditional partners in pursuit of their development goals and aspirations.

Among the discussions held was for the establishment of a US$25 million facility to accelerate food production and explore a hydroponics facility for the entire Region. The Guyana President said he is leading these discussions.

“We’ve submitted all the studies and I am confident that before the end of this year, we can see this project advanced towards implementation.”

“I’m also very pleased that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as committed to creating a special window and giving some preference to those in the Region who want to go perform the Hajj. Beyond infrastructure, beyond food and energy, there were deep discussions on how we strengthen on our cultural exchange, how we support the development of tourism, how we get the private sector to invest in the Region and here in Guyana. And I’m confident that in the coming weeks, we will see tremendous energy in relation to this new strategic relationship,” the Head of State noted.

Meanwhile, it was also disclosed that the Saudi Arabian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Climate Envoy, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, has also committed to attending the next Caricom Heads of Government meeting which will be held in Georgetown when Guyana takes over chairmanship in January.

During his visit in Riyadh, President Ali met with the Minister of State on Wednesday.

“As we continue to expand our diplomatic, political and economic reach, I believe that greater opportunity and possibility will come our way,” the Head of State noted during Saturday’s press conference at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.

In fact, Ali outlined that Guyana is already benefitting from its ties with Saudi Arabia through the US$150 million loan agreement signed back in May with the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) to finance the “Infrastructural Development Works for the Housing Sector Project”, and the “Construction of Wismar Bridge Project”.

The President recalled that when they started to expand Guyana’s diplomatic relationships in the Middle East, there were many criticisms from “political scientists.”

“I’ve consistently said, result is what matters. Today, in every one of our engagements, we can point to direct results. Saudi Arabia [and] Qatar now helping us, through a grant, with the building of a new stadium that will be in Region Three; approving the road project and in theoretical positioning, I was told that there will be nothing in this relationship. UAE (United Arab Emirates) approving the Special Needs School with a grant of $100 million, the technical collaboration on the coding project, and the list goes on,” he contended.