Guyana’s President, Dr Irfaan Ali, along with a high-level team of Government Ministers, on Tuesday held discussions with China’s President, Xi Jinping on a number of key issues that pertain to increased bilateral cooperation and help from China against the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a short release from the Office of the President, Ali was accompanied in the discussions by a team that included Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo; Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh; Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd and Public Works Minister Juan Edghill.
China’s State-run Xinhua News Agency reported that during the call President Xi proposed that the upcoming 50th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties be used to push for increased bilateral ties. “They stressed their nations’ excellent bilateral relations that should facilitate executing Guyana’s infrastructural component of its development drive.”
Also raised was the Belt and Road initiative, with the Chinese President suggesting the promotion of cooperation on the Initiative as well as the expansion of collaboration in other areas like energy and infrastructure. Additionally, the Chinese President is reported to have pledged increased cooperation to assist Guyana with vaccines and other help against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“China and Guyana, though far apart, enjoy a deep and close friendship,” Xi noted, according to the Xinhua News Agency report, adding that China’s President said that the two countries have achieved fruitful results in bilateral cooperation in various fields since they established diplomatic relations. He is quoted as saying that two-way trade increased last year despite the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating huge potential.
“Both countries are standing at an important stage of development and facing broad prospects and great opportunities. China stands ready to strengthen cooperation with Guyana in COVID-19 vaccines and continue to provide assistance and support within its capacity for Guyana’s economic and social development,” the President said according to the statement from the State news agency.
The virtual meeting is reported to have also seen Xi urging that the two countries strengthen collaboration when it comes to the United Nations, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the fight against climate change.
“Xi stressed that both China and Guyana are developing countries and have similar positions on a series of international and regional issues. The two sides should strengthen collaboration in issues related to the United Nations and climate change, so as to foster a more fair and equitable reform of international systems.”
Guyana was the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. The historic event took place on June 27, 1972. By October 1973, Guyana had opened an embassy in Beijing.
There are a number of close economic ties between Guyana and China. In 2012, under the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, Guyana had secured a US$138 million loan from the China Exim (Export-Import) Bank to fund the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion and modernisation project, for which the Guyana Government was supposed to put up some US$12 million.
Upon completion, the airport was expected to have eight air passenger boarding bridges for arrivals and departures; a 450-seat departure area, escalators, and elevators in addition to an extended runway measuring 400 and 690 metres at the respective ends to cater for larger categories of aircraft.
Although under the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC), there was a marked deviation from the contract, the contractor has since been tasked by the current Government with revising the scope of works to include the original terms of the contract.
Guyana had also received a US$45.3 million concessional loan from the China Exim Bank to complete the East Coast Demerara (ECD) road expansion project back in 2017. With the China Exim Bank putting up most of the funds for the road expansion, engineering firm China Railway First Group executed the contract to complete the works.
Even now, the Government will be tapping into monies left over from this loan to fund connector roads along the expanded ECD highway.