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Guyana must do more to attract investment- Canadian envoy

Canada’s High Commissioner to Guyana, David Devine

Western Nations, spearheaded by Canada, on Thursday cautioned that investors would not rush to Guyana unless the South American country addresses corruption, protects intellectual property, inks investment accords and revamps some of its laws.

Addressing the opening of the two-day Guyana Investment Conference, Canada’s High Commissioner to Guyana David Devine said just promoting the country as an investment-destination was insufficient.

Devine urged participants not to engage in a blame-game but to find ways of addressing issues such as security and governance. “Guyana’s investment potential hinges on the confidence of investors in the country’s security and governance,” he said.

“This forum should not be seen as the opportunity to play the blame game or to gain political points, but rather to discuss Guyana’s investment realities and at identify a roadmap for the way forward,” he added.

The Canadian envoy also told President Donald Ramotar, top government ministers, bureaucrats, private sector leaders, security experts and members of the diplomatic community at the opening session that the forum would address the impact that social ills such as child labour, bribery, lack of transparency and corruption have on investment.

“International firms are often beholden to the laws of their countries and the expectations of their investors who often entrusts their hard earned dollars into companies who operate abroad. Canadian, US and UK firms that work anywhere in the world can be severely prosecuted back in their own countries under their own domestic law for engaging in bribery or corrupting any public official in another foreign country anywhere in the world,” he added in speaking generally on such unethical and illegal practices.

In an apparent reaction to Devine’s concerns about corruption, President Ramotar again acknowledged that there were mechanisms to address the scourge. At the same time, he suggested that government critics have failed to present evidence of corruption on a recently televised series on corruption. “We even organised a public discussion on the television- seven programmes- and none of these programmes were any strong, entrenched corruption was ever established and we are ready to do it again for anyone who is doubtful,” he said.

The opposition has been pressing very hard in recent months for the constitutionally required Procurement Commission to be established. Government has since reacted by saying it wants the law to be amended to retain cabinet oversight of the process.

Pressing his case for a fair and balanced regulatory investment as another key to making Guyana an attractive investment destination, the Canadian High Commissioner said

Guyana, even with its impressive prospects, must satisfy certain key requirement of global lenders in order successfully raise required capital in international markets.

Conference organisers- American, British, Canadian and European missions as well as a number of businesses and regional and international partners- want Guyana to examine go into its “toolbox” of policies to generate high quality investment. They include bilateral investment treaties, double taxation agreements, intellectual property protection, development banks and sovereign wealth funds. “How these will apply to Guyana, is a decision that only Guyana can make,” said Devine.

Thursday’s panel discussions were expected to address how the capital market processes work to help foster a greater understanding the investment practices of global investors and International financial institutional (IFI’s) is important, not just for companies, but also for governments.

Restrictive rules and archaic laws such as those governing copyright laws and intellectual property protection are used by investors to measure how their investments will fare in international jurisdictions.

The Canadian High Commissioner conceded that it would be difficult to amend Guyana’s laws and regulations but suggested that the country had little choice if it is to evolve with the global changes and become an attractive location for companies, local and international companies alike, to conduct business.

“These include sound economic fundamentals, combined with a solid regulatory environment that facilitates the conduct of business, built around the cornerstones of free enterprise, free trade and free markets. The pursuit of these fundamentals will help to establish Guyana as one of the most attractive business hubs in the region,” he added.

The Canadian diplomat said that in an environment where time is money, investors are very prudent about where and when they would get the greatest quality returns for their investments in countries where there are ethical and transparent business practices.