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Time to revisit CARICOM; Trinidad & Tobago “predatory” on Guyana’s emerging oil sector -Robert Persaud

Former government minister, Robert Persaud.

Former Guyana government minister, Robert Persaud on Tuesday called for the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom) Single Market and Economy (CSME) to be revisited.

“The time has come for us to revisit the Treaty of Chaguaramas. The time has come for us to redefine what do we want, mean of want out of Caricom and, Guyana, we must start that conversation because we are the ones, we are expected to do more, to pay more and to get less,” he said.

Persaud insisted that he does not hate Caricom but argued that his experiences, as a minister since 2006, has showed that Guyana has “always gotten an unfair deal” and the Treaty and the CSME have always been applied unevenly.

Persaud says Guyana has a had history of being unfairly treated by sister Caricom member states and the latest is the “predatory” approach by Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) companies on Guyana’s emerging oil and gas sector. “Trinidad and Tobago has been so far very predatory in how it has approached opportunities in the oil and gas sector in Guyana and we need to push back,” he said. Water and food, he said, were being taken directly to rigs offshore Guyana, airport taxi services, trucking services, he said, were all being done by T&T companies.

Immediate past president of the GCCI, Deodat Indar.

Calling for Guyana to “take a stand”, Persaud said other member states have “explanations” about “full and fair” implementation of the Treaty in the areas of trading, agriculture, free movement of skills and other provisions while expecting Guyana to do so to the “letter and the spirit”. “We have been this abused partner in this relationship,” said Persaud who was Minister of Natural Resources up May 2015 when the PPP lost the elections.

Speaking on Monday at a similar interactive session, immediate past president of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Deodat Indar said the Treaty of Chaguaramas “is now used as a tool to access Guyana market but Guyanese are not benefitting from that Treaty to access their market.” He said Guyana cannot export ducks, honey, ice cream and pineapples at all or easily to Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados. “Is this working for us? We, as Guyanese leaders, have the obligation first to our private sector then to others and that is the priority you should have,” Indar said. He refuted suggestions that the GCCI was using the existing situation to retaliate against Trinidad.

Asked why the private sector was not raising its concerns through the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC), Indar said the ministerial Council for Trade and Economic Development’s (COTED) records show a “constant battle” over the trade in goods. “If you want fair trade, it must be both ways,” he said.