Address of His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana at the EXPO 2020, Dubai, UAE.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan
Members of the UAE and Private Sector delegates from Guyana
As-salaam Alaikum and Good morning,
We are delighted to be present here in Dubai and to participate in this showpiece Exposition. I thank the United Arab Emirates and the organisers of this Exposition for the extremely splendid arrangements which have been made to facilitate my attendance here and my country’s participation in EXPO 2020 Dubai.
Being at Expo2020 Dubai is an extremely overpowering experience. But even more amazing is the opportunity which this Exposition provides countries, such as my own, to showcase their products and services and to establish connections and synergies with investors and suppliers. Indeed, the theme of Expo2020 Dubai- ‘Connecting Minds Creating the Future’ resonates with each international participant, including Guyana.
We are here in this magnificent city. The story of Dubai’s development is truly fascinating. In recent times I hear people predict that my country, Guyana, will be the next Dubai; I often have to caution them that resources require investments to create wealth and generate opportunities for human well-being. It is a vision that must be captured and embraced, and this is what this Expo2020 offers, an opportunity to showcase that vision and create a winning culture.
Guyana’s theme at Expo2020 is ‘Home of Nature, Land of Opportunities’.
Today, I want to tell you a little bit about my country, our vision for its development and the tremendous investment opportunities, which presently exist.
Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America. It sits on the northern shoulder of the continent facing the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Brazil is on our most southern doorstep, and the bridge linking our two states provides a gateway to the large markets of the continent. We are also bordered by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the west, and to the east, we are establishing a bridge linking the Dutch-speaking Republic of Suriname, which will further increase trade and human contacts between our two states.
We are a multicultural society in which our various peoples coexist in harmony. This diversity is one of our greatest assets, and it is my ambition to let the melting pot of One Guyana be a model of unity and diversity, leading to the prosperity of all of our people.
Just to give you an example of how diverse we are, today in Guyana, it is a national holiday in honour of the birth and death of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be unto him.
Guyana was once described as the best-kept secret in South America because of the country’s stunning natural attractions and its unmatched biodiversity. Nature has blessed us abundantly with serene beaches, sprawling savannahs, pristine rainforests, diverse flora and fauna, spectacular waterfalls and a vast network of rivers and other waterways.
Guyana is a net carbon-sink. More than 80% of our country (the size of England) is covered by forests which generate oxygen and capture and store carbon – critical environmental and biodiversity services are provided with these standing forests.
Guyana, however, is no longer the continent’s best-kept secret. The country is igniting excitement throughout the region with its economic transformation. With GDP growth at 43.5%, it became the world’s fastest-growing economy in 2020 and is likely to sustain high levels of growth for the next decade. Guyana also has become the most exciting destination for tourists. The country was voted by an expert panel as being the best in sustainable tourism in 2019.
In 2015, Guyana discovered oil. This triggered a wave of further explorations, which have been highly successful. As a consequence, Guyana is now ranked among the world’s top 20 countries in terms of oil reserves. Oil production commenced in December 2019 and is expected to continue to increase well beyond the turn of the decade.
The discovery of oil, however, has not reduced Guyana’s commitment to the preservation and protection of the environment. We will continue to pursue oil production offshore, but onshore we will definitely intensify the de-carbonisation of the economy. We will do so principally on an expanded Low Carbon Development Strategy, which will emphasise low levels of deforestation, biodiversity protection, freshwater management, the sustainable development of the marine economy and conservation. Indeed, Guyana has announced that it intends to be a leader in terms of the environment and to align its development trajectory along a low-carbon pathway. Guyana also aims to become active in carbon trading markets. We take our responsibilities to the environment seriously. Guyana has already signed a Letter of Intent with a non-profit company to market Guyana’s carbon credits.
My country is a major food producer. Agriculture has long been a mainstay of its economy, contributing, even with oil production, more than 15% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product last year. It is also a significant foreign exchange earner, which together with forestry and fisheries accounts for more than 12.2% of national employment. The country is blessed with vast tracts of arable lands, abundant sources of freshwater supplies and a highly skilled and experienced agricultural workforce.
With a small population, Guyana depends considerably on international trade. We are an integral part of the Caribbean Community, which has a single market and is moving towards a single economy. We share historic ties with Britain and the European Union, which have long been valued markets for our goods and services. We also have ties with countries in Asia, and now we are strengthening our relations with this part of the world.
Investors are assured of agreements which facilitate trade between Guyana and all corners of the globe. Among these agreements are the Caribbean Basin Recovery Act; the Caribbean-Canadian Trade Agreement; the CARIFORUM-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement; and Guyana-Brazil Partial-Scope Agreement.
This is a capsule of some of the main features of our country, which should be of interest to those seeking to visit or to do business with Guyana.
All development must be inspired by a vision. We have a vision for Guyana. I believe that Guyana is in its finest era. The country is being prepared for its fastest and most explosive economic and social transformation.
We want to ensure a prosperous country where our people can enjoy high standards of living, including a 21st century education and world-class health services. I want Guyanese to enjoy these and other benefits in a healthy, safe, and secure environment.
We want to see a modern Guyana which will mould the next generation of our children and provide them with the best that life that we can offer. We want to build a more inclusive society in which our diversity is celebrated.
Guyana is set to become a leading oil and gas producer, an energy powerhouse, a bastion of food security, a prime destination for sustainable tourism and a regional information communications technology hub.
Guyana needs to convert its abundant resources – material and human – into wealth and thence to translate this wealth into human prosperity. But in order to do so, Guyana needs investment.
EXPO 2020 provides Guyana with the opportunity to showcase not only its products and services, including its sustainable tourism, but also to underline its investment opportunities in Infrastructure, Housing, Energy, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Agriculture, Manufacturing and Oil and Gas among others.
We need investment to drive our transformative agenda, and we are keen on attracting investments across all sectors. I invite you all to come and do business in my country. We welcome you. We have an open economy and with investor-friendly policies in place, including attractive incentive regimes, laws which protect the right to property, and which also allows freedom to repatriate profits.
Permit me to tell you why Guyana is unique in just a few sentences:
- Guyana is on an irreversible growth trajectory. This fact alone should provide comfort to investors that they are entering an economy which is expanding and doing so rapidly.
- Guyana now has the resources which would allow it to do much more, better and much faster.
- Guyana is already becoming a beacon for investment. The oil companies are bullish in investing in Guyana. Other companies are following their lead. International companies are lining up to do business with Guyana.
- Almost all our sectors have the capacity and potential for expansion. There is no crowding-out of potential investors.
- Guyana is the most resource-rich country in the English-speaking Caribbean. If we speak about world food production, environmental services, world-class eco-tourism, freshwater potential, mining opportunities, research and development, human transformation, health and educational services, I assure you Guyana will be an important part of that conversation.
Guyana needs to convert its abundant resources. We need you. We welcome you, and we urge you to remember the name Guyana and to keep the name Guyana in your plans for growth and development, both in country and by businesses and sectors
Thank you very much.
God bless all of you, and please continue to stay safe.