Ambassador Lynch delivers remarks at AMCHAM Guyana 3rd Annual General Meeting

Remarks as delivered
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
AMCHAM Guyana 3rd Annual General Meeting
September 1, 2021

His Excellency, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana Dr Irfaan Ali,
The Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hugh Todd,
The Honorable Minister of Tourism, Industry, and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond,
The Honorable Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh,
Members of the private sector,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon and thank you Roweena for your thoughtful introduction. I would like to acknowledge all AmCham members online today and thank you for your participation.

First I would like to congratulate Mr. Devendra Kissoon, the new chair at AmCham.  I also offer congratulations to the incoming Vice Presidents, Mr. Eduardo Reple, Ms. Iman Cummings and Mr. Shyam Nokta; and, to incoming Treasurer, Mr. Fitzroy McLoud.

But, this is a bittersweet moment for me as we say goodbye to a dear colleague and friend to the U. S. Embassy.  Zulfikar Ali – your work to build the American Chamber of Commerce in Guyana from the ground-up over the past three years has been nothing short of outstanding.  In just three years, and during a global pandemic, I might add, this organization has grown to 124 members representing all sectors, from finance to real estate, oil and gas to consumer goods.  This growth is a testament to Zulfikar’s distinguished leadership during a thoroughly transformational time in Guyana.   Zulfikar was relentless in his search for every opportunity to make this organization influential and successful.  Thank you, Zulfikar for all that you have done for the American Chamber in Guyana.  I look forward to staying in touch with you as you head off to your next adventure.

In  Guyana today, there is much to celebrate.  I just returned from the United States, where I attended the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.  The Guyanese booth was absolutely terrific, and by far the most popular!  Over 70 Guyanese companies participated, as well as a large government delegation led by Vice President Jagdeo.  I lost track of the number of side meetings that were taking place and MOUs that were signed.  I am sure that the event will result in many additional partnerships with U.S companies.

As many of you know, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Guyana’s economy grew by over 40 percent in 2020, making it the world’s fastest growing economy and the only country in the Caribbean to register positive GDP growth.   In 2021, Guyana’s growth as an oil and gas producing nation continues its historic ascent.   To date the ExxonMobil-led consortium has discovered over 20 commercially viable wells which underscores the game-changing effectiveness of American technologies.  Each discovery is further affirmation that Guyana is on track to become the second or third largest oil producer in the region in the coming decades.

U.S. firms involved in the exploration, drilling, and extraction processes continue to expand their operations and employ greater numbers of Guyanese.  To support this burgeoning industry, U.S. hospitality firms have dominated the Government of Guyana’s request for proposals by submitting expressions of interest for nearly 5,000 rooms from world class brands such as Hilton Garden Inn, Best Western, Courtyard Marriott, and others.  Opportunities in agribusiness, construction, IT, and energy sectors continue to attract the interest of U.S. companies in Guyana.  U.S. Embassy-hosted investment webinars with high-ranking Government of Guyana officials were attended by hundreds of U.S. firms, and over the past year the Embassy has seen a quadrupling in the number of commercial inquiries across all sectors.  Estimates suggest that Guyana’s economy will be the fastest-growing in the world continuously over the next three years.

But certain challenges remain.  Some U.S. businesses report lengthy timelines for permits, uncertain approval processes, and concerns about procurement procedures even when they follow the submission guidelines to the letter.  Traditional barriers to growth like high energy costs, aging roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure require investment and modernization.  If addressed properly, attention to these issues could unlock a new economic boom in manufacturing and value-addition in the agricultural sector.  However, if the right investments aren’t made in quality, lasting energy and transportation infrastructure, today’s low-cost bids could mean a high cost of doing business persists into tomorrow.  Shifting the focus to higher quality bids and adapting internationally recognized best practices to securely digitalize public procurement processes will help foster a more level playing field for aspiring Guyanese firms and U.S. businesses to compete for critical infrastructure projects and ultimately deliver better value to the Guyanese people.

Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, two key elements will set the tone for Guyana’s development: local content and partnerships.  To avoid the resource curse, Guyana is right to implement guard rails that legislate investing in the country’s workforce, empower Guyanese to innovate, develop capital markets, and grow its industries.  The U.S. government and the U.S. private sector look forward to a finalized local content policy (LCP) and amended Natural Resource Fund (NRF) legislation that sets a realistic path forward.  The local content policy should strike a balance between protecting Guyana’s human capital while also creating a welcoming atmosphere for international investors to spur innovation and offer new products and services.  If done correctly, the policy could serve as an incentive to form partnerships and joint ventures that enable both U.S. and Guyanese firms to share expertise, best practices, and profit together across many sectors.  Taken together, the local content policy and careful investment from the Natural Resource Fund can foster opportunities for all Guyanese and benefit the country as a whole.

But, U.S. companies aren’t waiting for a local content policy to start investing in Guyana’s people, because they know this is good for business in both the short and long terms.  And, it’s not just U.S. companies looking at Guyana, U.S. educational institutions are exploring opportunities here as well.  For example, Lone Star College out of Texas just signed an MOU with AmCham to do explore partnering on higher education opportunities.

I would also like to mention the importance of diversity in guaranteeing Guyana’s success. And it’s not just diversity in the marketplace.  It’s diversity in people, in membership, and in leadership.  I would like to challenge AmCham members to appoint persons in leadership positions who represent Guyana’s rich diversity – whether that involves ethnicity, religion, gender, geographic location, or even socioeconomic status.  I guarantee you that diversity in problem solving will have a positive financial impact on your bottom line.  But, I also recognize that recruiting diverse members and leaders does not happen overnight, and it can be hard work.  So, to those who may be wanting those leadership opportunities but haven’t yet raised their hand, please do so when you hear about new opportunities. It’s your talent, your confidence and your hard work that will allow you and the organization to ultimately succeed.

I’d like to give a shout out to those AmCham members who have been reaching out to Guyanese from a variety of backgrounds and helping them realize success.  The young entrepreneur’s program this year and the leadership of AmCham in developing a curriculum on financial literacy already has a life of its own, spreading to other sectors in Guyana.  I cannot say enough about the impact these programs will make, and I thank all who have been involved.

AmCham is a key player in Guyana’s private sector, and I continue to look to AmCham to advocate for responsible market regulations and to connect qualified U.S. firms with good local partners.  We at the U.S. Embassy join AmCham in calling for greater transparency, enforcing the rule of law, implementing international best practices in procurement, and promoting mutually beneficial local partnerships.  Progress on all these fronts will further strengthen U.S.-Guyanese ties and build a sustainable path to shared prosperity.  Guyana’s future continues to be bright and full of promise and the United States welcomes the opportunity to be part of your historic transformation.

Zulfikar – thank you again for your strong leadership of this institution; Devidnra, you have big shoes to fill, but I wish you the best of luck and look forward to working with you, the entire board and the membership.

Thank you very much.