President David Granger: Minister of Legal Affairs; Honourable Noel Holder, Minister of Agriculture; His Excellency Mr Cui Jianchun, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China and Madam; President of the Association of Chinese Enterprises in Guyana Kevin – well that’s an easy one to pronounce – Liu; members of the Association of Chinese Enterprises in Guyana; other Chinese nationals living in Guyana; special invitees; members of the media:
I am always happy to be here. As you know, this year there was a clash of dates because of the celebration of the Year of the Fire Rooster and then I think the Chinese Enterprises decided to postpone their event otherwise I would have been here much earlier I think, in February; but it’s always good to be here to be with the members of the ACG and to learn from them and to listen to them and to give assurances that the future of foreign direct investment in Guyana and the future of enterprise of China and other countries is guaranteed in this country and that is my main message to you, that as far as we can do in the Government of Guyana, we will continue to work to make sure that this is a destination which is not only safe but also one that is profitable to investors.
Ladies and gentlemen, Your Excellency, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the People’s Republic of China share common values. We respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; we adhere to the principle of mutual non-interference in the internal affairs of each other’s countries; we believe in the cooperation of the two countries for mutual benefit; we respect treaties and international law and we both stand for international peace and security, not only the states but also the people.
The Guyanese people and the Chinese people share strong bonds of blood, of history and of friendship. As you know, Chinese have lived for 164 years in Guyana. Chinese Guyanese are proud of their Chinese ancestry and they are proud of their Guyanese nationality.
As you know, this year I declared the 12th of January should be observed as Chinese Arrival Day and this day will mark the arrival of Chinese in 1853. Next year, therefore, will be the hundred and sixty-fifth anniversary of Chinese arrival and I’ve just whispered to your very young, energetic ambassador that I hope that the monument at Windsor Forest, where the first Chinese landed and where the first President of Guyana, Arthur Chung, the first Chinese President of a State in the western hemisphere was born; I hope that that monument could be more substantial than it is at present and I’m sure that I can count on the support of the ACEG in making sure that monument is a better tribute to the contributions the Chinese have made for 165 years to this country. So you’ll be hearing from me.
Ambassador, members of the ACEG, Chinese investment is having an important impact on the Guyanese economy. Kevin mentioned some of them, the impact on restaurants like this, which I believe, this one in particular has been in existence for 23 years, and I was just speaking to one of the staff members who I think is aiming at a long service medal because he was here when the New Thriving started its operations in Regent Street, then it moved to Kitty, then it moved to Main Street then it moved to Brickdam then it’s back in Main Street and now it’s moving all over the country but this is a sign. New Thriving is a sign of the prosperity which Chinese enterprises could enjoy in Guyana. Not only restaurants, we’ve got so many retail stores, construction companies that you heard about, building magnificent edifices all over the city of Georgetown. We have corporations, which are involved in the extraction of bauxite and timber, which are involved in the construction of the extension of the runway at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. All of these are examples of Chinese enterprises, as Kevin said, moving from 11 to 19 and I’m sure by next year, when I’m invited to dinner here again, it will probably be a much larger number.
Guyana welcomes Chinese investment in the economy. We wish to ensure however, that such an investment is aligned increasingly with the needs for local employment and national development. I was pleased to receive the letters of credence of His Excellency Cui Jianchun, the new ambassador of the People’s Republic of China only in January, three months ago and I’m glad to see that he has fallen in love with the country. In western romance that’s called a whirlwind affair.
I met the ambassador again to discuss bilateral relations. The central theme of that meeting’s agenda was increased Chinese investment in Guyana. The ambassador proposed a five-point agenda, which he called the five ‘Is’, in English of course, but I call the agenda the Jianchun Initiative. The Initiative is consistent with Guyana’s green development agenda. The Initiative can form the basis of increased investment and trade between Guyana and China.
Let me go through the Five ‘Is’. I think they’re important for the ACEG. If you haven’t heard from the ambassador you’re hearing them from me. The Five ‘Is’ – The first ‘I’ is for infrastructure. In Guyana, we want to bridge the divide not only between the hinterland and the coastland but between various economic groups in our society. Guyana is almost, you can say, divided by a river, which is one thousand kilometres long – the Essequibo River – but we do not have a single bridge on that Essequibo River and it separates the eastern part of Guyana from what I feel is the richest part of Guyana with its mines, its forests and its tremendous agricultural potential. So here we see the Jianchun Initiative, if we get the infrastructure in place we’ll be able to move development further and faster.
This bridging and the creation or construction of highways through Guyana will also mean that this English speaking state, the only English speaking state in the continent will be able to access markets in Brazil and all the way through our membership of UNASUR and MERCOSUR. So infrastructure is not just a road here or a road there, it is the development of the gateway of the Caribbean and other countries to the whole of South America. That is number one ‘I’.
Number two ‘I’ in the Jianchun Initiative is Information and Communication Technology. In this regard, I must pay tribute to the former ambassador Mr. Zhang Limin. In the closing days as the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China he gave tremendous support to the One Laptop per Teacher Initiative. In fact it was on the 5th of October, World Teacher’s Day, that he was with me at the Cyril Potter College of Education where we launched that One Laptop per Teacher Initiative.
This is one of the strongest support we can give to education in Guyana. Again, Information and Communication Technology is important to ensuring that businesses can access the markets, can get the best possible information in order to distribute their products to the market. Guyana still has to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of Information and Communication Technology.
The third ‘I’ is investment. Guyana has natural resources in abundance, there’s no doubt about that. Guyana is the largest state in the Caribbean Community. Guyana is bigger than England and Scotland combined. Guyana is rich in minerals, it is rich in forest, it is rich in agricultural potential, but that wealth can only be released if it is combined with capital, if it is combined with investment.
Investment, particularly foreign direct investment, when aimed at adding value to Guyana’s abundant natural resources will bring prosperity to both sides, to Guyana and to China. As you heard from Kevin, Guyana is becoming a ‘green’ state and the development of renewable energy is one of the frontiers for economic development.
In fact China, several years ago led the way in constructing a hydroelectric project in the Rupununi, one of the biggest regions, a region that is bigger than Costa Rica, but unfortunately because of bad weather that project was damaged but there is still potential; there is still the possibility that we could improve our access to sustainable energy by using solar power, wind power and other forms of hydropower.
The fourth ‘I’ in the initiative is industry. Guyana looks forward to increase investment in manufacturing. It is not enough to produce raw materials. We have to become a State that also has the capability to process its raw products. When I was at New Thriving on the East Bank at the time of the celebration of the Year of the Fire Rooster I invited this restaurant, obviously the biggest and presumably the most profitable restaurant in Guyana, New Thriving, to invest in agro-processing because most of the food, which we will eat in a few minutes time, I am sure if it has not been produced in Guyana can be produced in Guyana. So investment in agro-processing is going to be very beneficial and Guyana as part of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy will have access to the islands of the Caribbean and the members of the Caribbean Community; there is gonna be no Brexit here.
So we see expansion not only in trading, but also in farming, also in fishing and in forestry products. The increase in food production will ensure food security. Food security, if you look at the news in the evening, you will see, is one of the biggest problems facing the world. Increase in food production; increase in agro-processing; increase in the establishment of industrial parks will ensure that there is value-added to manufacturing, to production in Guyana, to the benefit of both countries.
And the last ‘I’, the fifth ‘I’ – integration. We encourage increased partnerships between Chinese and Guyanese businessmen. Partnerships must not only exist at the level of government, but they could exist between Guyanese businesses and Chinese businesses. Partnerships between Guyanese and Chinese companies can boost investment. They are a means of transferring technology; they can spur the creation of employment. We want Chinese investors to feel at home in Guyana, to be welcomed in Guyana.
Members of ACEG, ambassador, ladies and gentlemen, we are committed to the protection of foreign citizens, of foreign investors, foreign visitors – of tourists; we will do everything possible to improve our public security and our human safety. We will continue to provide a business climate that is favourable, that is friendly to investors. We assure you of the government’s commitment to support investment; investment which we know will advance our economic development. We wish the Association of Chinese Enterprise in Guyana every success in its mission to expand investment.
The Government of Guyana remains open to working with the ACEG to our mutual benefit. With these words, I ask that we rise and propose a toast to the success of Chinese enterprise in Guyana.
I’m not even toasting in El Dorado rum, I’m toasting in Moatai.
To your success!