Guyana on Wednesday began fine-tuning work on the crafting of a 10-year strategy for the country’s economic development.
Commerce Minister, Irfan Ali told Demerara Waves that the two-day National Economic Forum being held under the theme “Promoting Economic Growth through Innovation, Diversification and Partnership,” would build on the National Development Strategy and Poverty Reduction Strategy that have been crafted several years ago.
“The National Development Strategy is the foundation through which we are now embarking, given he changing environment,” he said.
Addressing the opening of the forum being held at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal, the minister explained that the forum would explore ways of improving the “Doing Business in Guyana” ranking to 80. The World Bank currently rates the country at 114. A high ranking on the ease of doing business index means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm. In the rest of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom), Barbados is ranked 88, Trinidad 69, Jamaica 90 and Antigua and Barbuda is 63.
The forum will focus on 10 thematic areas including agro pocessing, aquaculture, aviation, energy, land use development, human resource and manpower planning, infrastructure, manufacturing and standards, tourism and non-Caribbean trade.
In the presence of A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Joseph Harmon and other representatives of the opposition, the opening of the Economic Forum was used by government and private sector representatives to appeal for support for the Amaila Falls Hydropower project.
The United States-headquartered Sithe Global/Blackstone has pulled out of the US$860 million project, citing the absence of national political consensus. Analysts say that although the Alliance For Change (AFC) has supported the passage of legislative instruments in the House, the American investor feared that APNU might alter the project if it were to win any of the elections in the next 20 years- the life of its investment.
Reiterating that Guyana would save US$120 million annually in fossil fuel imports and another US$20 million in diesel generation spares, Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Ronald Webster issued a stirring appeal for unanimous political support. “”I do ask hat everyone gives a rethink of this project and supports it,” he said. Similar sentiments were expressed by Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh and President Donald Ramotar.
The President again lambasted the opposition for opposing the project without raising any detailed objections in the National Assembly on two occasions when the matter had arisen.
For its part, the opposition has said that based on information provided to it , there was no guarantee that domestic and commercial consumers would pay less for electricity and that the country was likely to be saddled with a huge debt.