Remarks by Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch (as prepared )
AmCham Guyana 1st Annual General Meeting
Saturday, August 31, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen, a very pleasant afternoon to you all.
Thank you, Chairman Ally, for the warm welcome. I thank AmCham Guyana for inviting me to your Annual General Meeting, and for the opportunity to celebrate with you the one-year anniversary of this important organization. It truly is remarkable what AmCham Guyana has accomplished in one short year when you consider the cycle of most business organizations, the start-up time required to arrive at a healthy balance sheet, and the positive investment climate required to make that happen. So I am here to share some of AmCham’s successes during its first year, to talk a bit about Guyana’s entry into a transitional decade like none other it has experienced, and to underscore the role AmCham can play as it provides a network and support structure for U.S. enterprises doing business in Guyana. Thank you once again for having me.
AmCham is only one year old, but the organization has already done much to help grow and connect Guyanese and U.S companies. The organization launched on Aug 13, 2018, with 17 founding members and has almost quadrupled to 61 members since. During its first year, AmCham helped several U.S. companies find office space, apply for the appropriate permits, hire staff, and navigate the local business scene. The organization also sponsored distinguished speakers, hosted networking events, and helped forge strong business relationships. Thank you AmCham for your efforts in helping U.S. companies prosper here. And when you partner with U.S. companies, you partner with the best.
AmCham’s tangible accomplishments in such a short period of time lend themselves to reflections about what you can achieve down the road. These aspirations start with changes that are just around the corner or more accurately 120 miles offshore and 3,660 meters under the seabed. With the arrival of ExxonMobil’s Liza Destiny – and what a technological wonder that vessel is – oil production will begin in a few short months. Guyana is poised to become a major player in the global energy sector, with exponential growth driven by oil. As some of you have heard me say before, promoting responsible and sustainable economic growth is one of my top priorities as Ambassador. Ensuring responsibility and sustainability throughout all business sectors over the next several decades, however, will require effort on everyone’s part and continuing leadership by AmCham.
I ask you, the business leaders of Guyana, to visualize Guyana’s future 10, 20, or even 30 years from now. Image the Guyana you want your grandchildren to experience. Will it be a vibrant country that is the envy of the Caribbean, of the Americas, and of the world? Will it achieve a balanced and broad growth that is sustainable and less susceptible to shocks in world commodity prices? To be sure, Guyana is on the cusp of tremendous change. The good news is that no one here today is a bystander when it comes to answering the key question, what will that change look like? You are responsible parties and the decisions made today by all stakeholders will shape Guyana’s future. Guyana is already showing its commitment to future generations through efforts such as the creation of a sovereign wealth fund, and we in the international community and the private sector each want to play our part to help keep the country on the path to prosperity.
In order to help maintain this path, the Government of Guyana, along with organizations like AmCham, is correctly encouraging more foreign direct investment. Chairman Ally has spoken eloquently about the “multiple opportunities that exist in Guyana today” and foreign direct investment is the not-so-secret sauce in transforming Guyana by realizing these opportunities. Not only does foreign direct investment bring in capital and employment opportunities, but it introduces international standards that local companies need to reach global competitiveness. For example, international investors require subcontractors to accept clauses from standard international contracts, including audit requirements. That is good for Guyana’s businesses. As Guyanese companies adopt best international standards in ISO certification, inventory management, and logistics planning, they will reach a point where they can compete with, and beat, the larger players. This process is central to Amcham Guyana’s mission to “create a greater appreciation of the value of a more liberal investment of substance and self on behalf of the interests of competitive businesses.”
In keeping with your mission, I ask this general assembly to ponder AmCham Guyana’s leadership role in the pursuing a strengthened investment and trade relationship with the United States in support of our shared vision of sustainable prosperity for Guyana. As in most policy matters, such a vision requires that we avoid undermining our own objectives. Some recent suggestions of a Local Content Policy in Guyana may send a signal that some investors, and the employment and know-how benefits they bring, are not welcome. At a time of increasing integration, especially in a globalized energy sector, focusing on who owns a firm is counterproductive. Rather, the emphasis should be on whether firms are following international best practices on matters such as financial transparency and environmental protection and otherwise acting in a manner that contributes directly to Guyana’s overall sustainable prosperity. Most importantly, Guyana should look at foreign investors as partners in growing the economy, rather than as adversaries. The U.S. Embassy is prepared to, and very much wants to, work with AmCham to connect your leadership with U.S. experts who can provide guidance on these key issues.
My goal this afternoon was to help kick-start a binational dialogue on open investment so that AmCham and the Guyanese people can select the best long-term path to prosperity. I hope I accomplished that goal. Guyana’s bright new future starts now, and I look forward to AmCham, along with the government and other private sector actors, playing an active role in transforming Guyana into a vibrant economic leader.
Allow me to close by wishing AmCham a happy anniversary and prosperous year to come.