Guyana should accept foreign skills until local capacity is created – Canadian envoy

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Outgoing Canadian High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjee

Outgoing Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Lilian Chatterjee on Friday said that Guyana will have to accept a foreign labour force while it works on developing its own capacity locally to absorb the unprecedented growth the country will undergo.

This comes in light of mounting concerns by Guyanese citizens and businesses that local opportunities will be usurped by foreigners.

However, speaking at the launch of the Canada-Guyana Chamber of Commerce on Friday, High Commissioner Chatterjee contended that Guyana’s rapid growth and need for goods and service provide opportunities for foreign direct investments.

But the Canadian envoy pointed out that Guyana lacks a skilled and sizable labour force to benefit from the explosive growth that is coming its way.

“You are already witnessing an influx of global political leaders and investors who want to do business in Guyana. Get ready! This is just the beginning… That [skilled] workforce does not exist right now in Guyana. You do not have the population yet to be the engine of your rapid growth. Many oil-producing countries in the Middle East have understood that. So, you should accept that others – and I suspect that they will mostly come from your geographic neighbours from Caricom (Caribbean Community) and in the Americas – to support your growth at the outside until Guyana can supply the skilled workforce that it needs,” Chatterjee posited.

She noted that even today, Canada still welcomes immigrants to provide the skilled workforce it needs to fuel its growth.

“Don’t resist foreign investment but use your judgement on who you can trust… This is [the] Canadian approach – we will not flood you with an influx of Canadian employees but we will provide Canadian expertise…” she stressed.

The Canadian diplomat, who was speaking at her last public event before her tenure in Guyana comes to an end next week, said that while it is reasonable for foreign investors to want to profit off of Guyana’s investment, it is equally critical that they contribute to Guyana’s development for the benefit of Guyanese citizens.

On this note, she attested that the current Guyana Government is pushing for external investors to train and employ Guyanese citizens so that maximum benefits for the country is obtained. This is evident, she noted, in ongoing negotiations between Guyana and Canadian investors.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

Meanwhile, President Dr Irfaan Ali while also speaking at the same event on Friday acknowledged Guyana’s lack of capacity.

“There must be a period of transition where the skills is not there, the technology might not be there and even the capital might not be there. So, it is very important that we build and collaborate with partners internationally. Today, we’re building and collaborating with Canada,” the President noted.

Having understood the reality of this situation, Ali said it is important now for Government to bridge that gap and facilitate the foreign investment opportunities that will bring the skills, technology and capital that is needed to take Guyana forward.

To thOn this note, the Head of State committed to facilitating foreign investments that will benefit not just the investor but foremost, Guyana.
“I want to assure you that the Government of Guyana would not resist but assist foreign investors. There is no point in saying we are a part of a global environment, of understanding we are competing in a global environment, of understanding that we are part of a global network but at the same time, do not recognise that we are also part of global competition,” he stated.