Guyana welcomes T&T investors, but they must partner with local businesses – VP

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Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

– explains “falling apart” comment on T&T

With Guyana’s local content legislation currently being implemented, the Government has reassured that the country is open to foreign investors, especially those from within the Caribbean Community (Caricom) including Trinidad and Tobago, but insisted that they have to work with Guyanese businesses and individuals.

This is according to Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo during a press conference on Friday where he addressed concerns on the relations between Guyana and the twin-island republic.

“We’re not going to discriminate against Trinidadians. We want Trinidadian businesses to come here. They can come here in partnership with our people. We’re grateful for the support they have given to our people. They have a lot of skills and capital there, and they’re welcome here – the people are welcome but they have to come in partnership with our people,” Jagdeo stated.

Pointing out that Guyanese are sometimes treated as “second-class citizens” in their own country by businesses here, the Vice President pointed out that the attitude against the people of Guyana has to change.

He further reminded of Guyanese being “badly treated” over the years in other countries including Trinidad and Tobago – an issue that various Guyanese Governments have had to raise with their counterparts in the twin-island republic.

“So, we know about the hardship our people face too. But one thing that will happen, we are not going to be bullied. Many people believe they can bully us now into removing the local content we have set aside for our people to improve on and Guyanese to now benefit from this. Trinidad and Tobago had a Local Content Policy too, and it’s hard for many of our businessmen to go there and establish business. They have a hard time accessing land and anything else,” he noted.

According to the Vice President, Guyana is, nevertheless, committed to working with its Caricom neighbours including Trinidad and Tobago, but insisted that it must be an equitable relationship in which both countries benefit from each other.

“We have Treaty obligations and we are a member of Caricom, and we want to be a member of Caricom. Caricom is a valuable part of our family. So, we’ll uphold our Treaty obligations but somehow, they believe they have a God-given right to displace Guyanese too in our own country from our own resources… We’re not gonna stand by and allow that to happen. We’re not going to.”

“Trinidad and Tobago is valuable… They have capital, they have the expertise and we want to benefit from that but people have to understand that we are [not] unequal to them… Our businesses will have to benefit too and that is what we are looking forward to… genuinely working together,” VP Jagdeo contended.

Only recently, remarks made by the Vice President during his outreach on the Essequibo Coast regarding the economy of Trinidad and Tobago “falling apart”, have attracted criticisms from the Caribbean nation.

As such, during Friday’s press briefing, Jagdeo defended his comments on the Caricom country’s “undiversified” economy, stating that Guyana should not become too dependent on its oil industry.

“The fact is that Trinidad, and this is indisputable that its economy is heavily reliant on the oil and gas sector – that’s a fact. I’ve had discussions with several leaders there about a post-oil and gas economy so this has nothing to do with just [Trinidadian Prime Minister Keith] Rowley. This is the fact of the economy in Trinidad and Tobago over a long period, growing to rely only on one sector. There is a theory that that shouldn’t happen.

Theoretically, that shouldn’t happen and it’s called the ‘Dutch Disease’. And practically, it has consequences for your country too and we’ve seen it happening in Trinidad and Tobago… and many countries in the world,” he stated.

The Vice President recalled that in a previous budget, Trinidad had lost about 80 per cent of its revenue when there was a drop in the price of oil and gas globally, and production had fallen too.

“The economy in Trinidad is undiversified, it relies heavily on oil and gas. I spoke about when the price falls, things start to fall apart… And so, I said we are determined in Guyana to avoid going down that path,” he posited.

Moreover, VP Jagdeo insisted that his remarks are not anything new or things that are not already known and being talked about in Trinidad. In fact, he noted that even the private sector groups that come here have raised this issue.

“I’ve sat and listened to the worst things or the most disparaging things said about Guyana and Guyanese, coming from the leadership in Trinidad and Tobago over the years. They talked about the fact that we are undemocratic and if they are not careful, they are going the Guyana route and I didn’t raise an issue because it’s true – many of the things they spoke about – that our democracy was challenged. So, I don’t know if they have a problem with truth,” Jagdeo asserted.