Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
AmCham Guyana 2nd Annual General Meeting (Virtual)
November 13, 2020, 1:00 PM
Good afternoon and thank you Davindra for your thoughtful introduction. I would like to acknowledge all AmCham members online today and thank you for your participation.
To AmCham, congratulations on another successful year as an increasingly impactful and leading part of Guyana’s private sector. In just two short years, this organization has grown to 92 members representing all sectors, from finance to real estate, oil, and gas to consumer goods. This growth a testament to Zulfikar’s leadership throughout this entire period and the economic transformation that has begun in Guyana. It’s also a testament to the natural path that a market economy should take when it has the opportunity as well as the initiative from such strong private sector leaders.
Diversification in any economy is key; no one wants or expects one sector to dominate. To create the prosperity in which every Guyanese can share will take effort from all corners of society, from all over the country. And the United States sees and applaud that effort. During my meetings with the new government ministers, what I’ve taken away is great enthusiasm and willingness to partner with the U.S. and U.S. companies. And this is based on a strong bilateral relationship in which we are backing up diplomatic words with meaningful deeds. The September visit by Secretary of State Pompeo, the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to Guyana, was clear proof of that. That was followed a few weeks later by a six-agency delegation led by the Development Finance Corporation, or DFC. Two high level visits in one month – that is what we call commitment.
During the Secretary’s visit, our two countries signed the Growth in the Americas Initiative Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU. This MOU provides a framework to promote private sector investment in finance and procurement, infrastructure, housing and energy security. It will also lay the groundwork to implement global best practices in policy, legal, regulatory and investment frameworks. We hope to soon hold our first bilateral Working Group to implement this initiative, which will determine the next steps and timeline for the agreement’s key objectives and action items.
AmCham has been instrumental in maintaining follow up on these priorities. Two weeks after the DFC visit, AmCham hosted a follow up webinar for over 60 businesses with the DFC. This was to ensure the private sector knows how the DFC provides project financing through public private partnerships and other mechanisms. We at the Embassy are happy to connect the private sector with the DFC for these financing opportunities.
From infrastructure to energy, from health care to agriculture, the future of U.S. investment here is just beginning. Over the next year we look forward to partnering with AmCham on webinars in all of these areas. We look forward to U.S. companies competing fairly and transparently in tender processes, as we want to remain Guyana’s top trading partner and partner of choice.
And that is where you come in. Your expertise in the local market and know-how are critical elements for any investor who wants to work with Guyana. Your advocacy for fair and transparent procurement processes, your adherence to environmental laws and fair hiring practices, your mentoring of young entrepreneurs, this all matters. And it all contributes to a bright and prosperous Guyana. In our efforts to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs, we would be happy to partner with members to brainstorm possibilities. This year we’ll be opening an American Corner at the National Library, which already has expressed interest in working with AmCham on financial literacy issues for young people. It is your leadership now that will make a difference for the coming generation.
For our part, the Embassy is a U.S. Commercial Service partner post with the U.S. Department of Commerce, which means we can connect investors with Guyanese businesses. We also help facilitate requests for Guyanese businesses seeking to invest in the United States. Interested in opening a U.S. franchise here? We are your first stop. Need assistance importing U.S. products and materials? We are here for you.
It is now normal to expect an increasing amount of commercial interest in Guyana. I get calls from U.S. companies regularly. Just last week, I met with the Business Council for International Understanding, a U.S.-based organization founded under President Eisenhower, whose members include Fortune 500 companies interested in what Guyana has to offer. The company representatives inquired about a broad range of investment opportunities including investment in the oil and gas sector, housing and urban development, environmental resiliency, satellite imagery and security services, just to name a few. Seeing these investment aspirations realized as commitments will require hard work, as you know. The World Bank’s 2020 report on Ease of Doing Business ranked Guyana 134 out of 190 countries. Some of the contributing issues include taxation, high energy costs, inadequate infrastructure, outdated intellectual property rights (IPR), bureaucracy, perceived corruption, and citizen security concerns. I would challenge us all to improve this ranking in 2021 through our common efforts.
I know that AmCham represents a private sector that stands for quality, ethical practices, and hard work. I continue to be impressed by your efforts in the community, and the Embassy will continue to support you however we can. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with you today. Please stay healthy and safe.