Finance Minister outlines Guyana’s plans for economic transformation to IsDB Group Meetings in Uzbekistan

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Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh

During his presentation today while participating in the 2021 Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group’s Annual Meetings in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh congratulated the Government and people of Uzbekistan for the excellent arrangements put in place for the meetings, especially since they are taking place during the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senior Finance Minister also congratulated the current President of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Dr. Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser, who commenced duties last month. He also thanked his predecessor Dr. Bandar Hajjar for his commitment to the Bank and the IsDB’s support for Guyana’s development agenda during his tenure.

“We were very pleased to hear the new President’s inaugural address yesterday as he highlighted development priorities, such as social infrastructure and human capital development, stimulating domestic and high-valued foreign investments, digital transformation to secure greater resilience, building out infrastructure, environmental considerations, international climate commitments, regional integration and cooperation, and building fiscal buffers. These are all priorities that are acutely relevant to Guyana, “Dr. Singh said.

Alluding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Finance Minister reminded that it is wreaking havoc across the globe, sparing no country nor community while Policymakers worldwide have had to grapple with the human tragedy and economic trauma that the pandemic brought with it.

“In Guyana, as if the challenges of COVID-19 were not enough, we then had to contend with unprecedented flooding, as a result of extraordinary levels of rainfall since May this year, resulting in a national disaster declared. These floods caused the displacement of households and farmers and extensive damage to property, including farms, crops, and livestock. These floods have also brought into sharp focus Guyana’s continued vulnerability to climate risks,” he added.

The Senior Finance Minister then lauded the Bank’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Program (SPRP), which provided a total of US$4.5 billion of support to help member countries contain, mitigate, and recover from COVID-19. He noted, however, that despite this, the battle with COVID-19 is far from over.

Dr. Singh told participants that Government, under the Leadership of President Irfaan Ali, has requested the reprogramming of previously approved funds and programming of new resources to help Guyana strengthen its capacity to respond to any future extreme climatic events and to build more resilient infrastructure. Discussions are ongoing with the Bank on this, as Government aims to garner the required support while also ensuring that this support is delivered in the shortest possible time.

“We are also engaged in discussions with the Bank on several transformative projects, aimed at reinforcing our resilience and harnessing our untapped economic potential, particularly in the non-oil sector. We have already initiated discussions on many projects in the transport infrastructure sector with the Bank, including farm-to-market roads, which will open new arable land. Here again, timely conclusion of these discussions will help accelerate realisation of the outcomes targeted by these critical interventions,” The Senior Finance Minister explained.

Dr. Singh posited during his presentation that even as Guyana faces many immediate challenges the country still has bright and exciting opportunities ahead in its current momentous juncture of economic evolution.

“As one of the world’s newest oil producers, with the potential to become a significant supplier on the global scale, Guyana is poised for a dramatic structural shift in our economy. We intend to seize this moment to leapfrog the growing pains that new oil and gas producers suffer all too often, including by ensuring that we achieve and maintain a globally competitive non-oil economy from the very outset,” he emphasized.

The Senior Finance Minister then underscored the pivotal role Guyana’s Private Sector will play in the realization of the country’s transformation, both at the domestic and international levels.

“While Government will maintain a supportive environment and will invest in supportive infrastructure, the bulk of the economic growth will be driven by private investment and Guyana abounds with opportunity today for the private sector. In this regard, the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC), and International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) all have important mandates. We look forward to these private sector-oriented entities within the IsDB Group playing a demonstrably bigger role in Guyana, and indeed in all other member countries, in the immediate future, Minister Singh said.

He also alluded to several policies put in place by Government in the past, which are being once again brought to the fore in the country’s fight against Climate Change such as the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

“Even as we become an oil and gas producer, Guyana prides itself as a global leader in the fight against climate change. The preservation of our pristine rainforest over generations has enabled us to make a disproportionate contribution to the global climate effort today. In 2008, we published what we believe was the first LCDS for a developing country. On the basis of that strategy, we partnered in 2009 with Norway in the world’s third largest international forest partnership to create the capabilities needed to integrate Guyana’s forest climate services within international carbon and other markets,” the Senior Finance Minister further emphasized.

On this note, he disclosed that the Government of Guyana is now working on a new and expanded LCDS which aims to ensure that Guyana’s standing forests are adequately remunerated for the global climate services they provide, adding that the expanded LCDS will also encompass the blue economy for the first time so that Guyana can also harness full benefit of its vast marine resources in a sustainable manner.

“Guyana stands ready to share with the IsDB family our experience with economic development along a low carbon trajectory, and to work with the Bank to build a stronger coalition around the critical environmental and climate issues of our time,” Dr. Singh concluded as he reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to working closely with the Bank and fellow members to advance economic development in all the countries.

The IsDB Group’s 2021 Annual Group Meetings (which also saw the presence of His Excellency Sardor Umurzakov, Chairman of the IsDB’s Board of Governors, along with other High-Level officials from around the world) are expected to wrap up on September 4.