President David Granger: Prime Minister’s Office; other dignitaries; my friend Colin, President of the Chamber of Commerce; President of… (How many Presidents we have here?) Regional Chairman of NARI and of CARDI; Regional Chairman, Brian Allicock; once you are in North Rupununi you throw a stone in the air and it will land on an Allicock; Regional Executive Officer, Mayor of Lethem, Carlton Beckles.
I’m glad to be here. I will come to Lethem separately later and, of course, the beautiful voices of Bina Hill Institute from North-Rupununi. I am happy to be here among you. I thank you for your welcome and before we get down to some serious food.
The Prime Minister is always welcome in Guyana. I said some things to my colleagues over the last three days that we have worked together and I just want to tell you what I told them – that Guyana and Suriname together are bigger than Germany. Guyana and Suriname possess landscape which is more extensive than Germany and the Prime Minister saw for himself the length of time it took to come here and the length [of time] to Lethem and the length of time to come from Lethem to Santa Fe, and this region, Region Number Nine, which I call the Rupununi. The bureaucrats call it Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo – nobody calls it that; even the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce call themselves the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce. Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Chamber of Commerce, but that is another story.
But this region is bigger than Costa Rica. This region could have been a country. It tried to be a country years ago; it tried to be a country back in 1969. That is the first time I came, but we need to develop this region and, as the Prime Minister said, we have Brazilians here, we have Chinese here, we have Bangladeshis, and here we have people from all over the world. I wouldn’t speak about Colin because he is Guyanese; but if people can come from all corners of the world to work and live and invest and develop Guyana, why not the Caribbean? So what we are witnessing today is a reaffirmation of that historical bond between Guyana and the Caribbean, particularly between Guyana and Barbados.
But, as the Prime Minister said, we want investment, we want infrastructure, we want people who have access to capital to bring their capital and to help to provide employment and develop our resources in this part of the country.
We want to see a road between Georgetown and Lethem. We want to see people being free to move. It should not take people 14 hours to come from Georgetown to Lethem every day and we are going to bridge the Essequibo River, we are going to build this highway; that is a commitment that we are working towards. (Applause.)
But you know, I have said this before and we are working [toward] it, and it is going to happen, it is going to happen, just keep putting your ‘x’ in the right place. So, I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to see what is happening in these savannahs. The first time I was here there were the Orellas and the Gorinskys and the Harts and Belvederes.
We need to bring capital and show that Rupununi is not the ninth region in Guyana. It should be number one, number one in terms of size, and number one in terms of productivity. You have gold and of course, as I’ve said over and over again, I go to New York I said, ‘we Guyana have the giants, world class giants in this part of the world, in this part of the country’. If you name the ten most prominent animals in the world they would include the harpy eagle, they would include the anteater, they would include the river otters, they would include the Jabiru stork; they would include the tarantula spiders and the vampire bats and the jaguar.
We have a world class tourist product and we expect that with the expertise of places like Barbados, places that have got a world class tourist product in one other area, sun and sand and sea… We have a world class tourist product and I want to see entrepreneurs combining their product with our product; and we are going to be participants in this Caribbean project of developing our country for our people, our children. You can see how many there are and this is just North Rupununi; wait till you get down south. (Laugher.) You will see pickney there.
So the door is open and we are here to show our Caribbean brothers that our land space, once we have the capital, once we have investment, once we have the expertise, we can become as prosperous as any other part of the world. We are not backward people and this is not meant to be a backward country.
So thank you for coming out in your numbers, thank you for the warm welcome from the time we landed at Lethem and we look forward to a good lunch with Rupununi rice but, most of all, we look forward to a new attitude to development, a new attitude to welcoming investment, a new attitude to our economy.
We have launched what we call the ‘green’ economy and we’re quite confident that now that a township has been created at Lethem for the first time, a democratically elected mayor and council, that Lethem will become a hub for investment, also a hub for administration so people don’t have to go to Anna Regina and Suddie and Georgetown to look after their registration and I learned this from [President of the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry] Mr Gagie.
When I came here in March, its Anna Regina you go to register your business? Suddie? Oh this is crazy… I think they made some points there to me and I took careful notes and soon afterwards the Minister of Business came in and he took careful notes but we have to translate notes into action and there is going to be progress Mr. Gagie.
So once again, thank you very much for coming out. I’d like to thank the Prime Minister of Barbados [the Right Honourable Freundel Stuart] and his team for coming here.
We flew over that sea of broccoli; we saw the landscape change from the flat coastland to the sea of broccoli, to the mountains, to the savannahs. So we can understand what complex geography Guyana possesses, but I’m glad that he’s here and I’m very confident that he is going to take a message back and they’ll be many more citizens coming down here.