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UN Rep. urges caution on foreign investment in natural resources

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Khadija Musa

UN Resident Coordinator in Guyana Khadija Musa has sounded a warning about the exploitation of natural resources by cash-rich countries.

She was speaking at the World Environment Day observance on Wednesday at the Umana Yana where she said natural resources could be the source of future conflicts.

“Governments have to be really careful when powerful countries with plenty of money come and buy your natural resources. That means you are losing control of it for the future.”

The UN official recalled that she recently read a book, “Winner Takes All,” which dealt with the money power of China and its pursuit of natural resources across the world.  “I read for example in Peru they paid three billion (dollars) for a whole mountain of copper so when there’s a shortage of copper China won’t have shortage of copper.”

Musa added that land and water were two other resources which needed to be properly managed for the benefit of the people.

However, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud sought quickly to dispel any notion that Guyana was for sale when he spoke afterward.

“I want to give the full assurance on behalf of our government that we are open to foreign investment but we are not open to selling our souls and ourselves and our future, they’re two distinct notions in this regard.”

Persaud said all foreign investors would have to abide by the laws because the government would not be bargaining out the country’s natural resources for the sake of a few dollars.

“We need development but we are not desperate,” Persaud said. Most of the large investments in Guyana’s extractive sector are primarily from foreigners.

Meanwhile, China on Sunday committed US$3B in grants and concessionary loans for eight CARICOM countries including Guyana. The Asian giant has long been a source of aid and preferential loans access for Guyana and other countries across the region.

Guyana and China established relations 40 years ago and have enjoyed frequent high-level exchanges at the political, diplomatic, economic and cultural levels.  The relations have benefited Guyana socially and economically with a number of key projects, like the One Laptop Per Family, the Amaila Falls Hydro Project, and construction of the Marriott Hotel.