Honorable Dr. Ashni Singh, Senior Minister, Office of the President, with responsibility for Finance,
Other Government Representatives,
Ms. Oslene Carrington, CEO, Guyana Economic Development Trust,
Ms. Tanya Wilcott, Senior Manager, Business Solutions Unit, GTT,
Staff of USAID and the Guyana Economic Development Trust,
Participants from the Economic Development Accelerator program,
Members of the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning, it is terrific to be here with you in person, to participate in this wonderful awards ceremony for the United States Agency for International Development Eastern and Southern Caribbean Economic Development Accelerator program, or EDA.
This accelerator program provides business training, coaching, other business development support, and access to capital for growing agro-processing businesses in Guyana.
I understand there will be thirty businesses chosen annually, and today marks the culmination of year one in a five-year program cycle. That means that 150 Guyanese businesses will receive world class support, including technical assistance and funding for export to significantly enhance their capabilities to help feed this country, this region, and maybe one day, the world.
The United States is committed to the economic strengthening and diversification of Guyana, and this program is just one example of that commitment. U.S. trade with Guyana is close to $2 billion U.S. dollars annually, and small and medium enterprises, like the ones represented here, must become a larger part of that trade relationship if Guyana is to successfully diversify its economy.
Your success is critical for the overall success of Guyana’s economy, not just for the jobs you provide, but also for your assistance to Guyana in avoiding the dreaded Dutch disease, or resource curse, which is caused by relying too much on one sector.
The Government of Guyana has spoken many times about the need to diversify its economy, and the need to invest in agriculture, so I am proud that USAID is rising to that challenge through efforts to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of the Guyanese people on a grander scale.
The major floods last year likely had an impact on your businesses along with the farming community throughout much of Guyana. Unfortunately, the science shows that these kinds of natural disasters are increasing in scale and regularity. In response, a resilient agricultural sector is needed that can withstand their impact, and that is where technical assistance and planning are so critical.
The U.S. Government, through USAID, also supports this area through Climate Smart Agriculture resources from our Farmer-to-Farmer Program and initiatives to improve the country’s weather and agricultural forecasting capacity, including equipping the Guyana Meteorological Office with 21 automatic weather stations. Additional work with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, a CARICOM agency based in Barbados, is building models to better predict droughts and extreme weather events, which will be useful for farmers everywhere in the region. We hope this combination of support will be a winning formula for the agricultural-based businesses here today and all the others across the country.
Another key part of this program’s success, I think, is the diaspora connection. Not only is Ms. Carrington, the CEO of the implementing partner, the Guyana Economic Development Fund, a native Guyanese herself, but the many experts in her network are as well, and I know they are thrilled to be a part of this endeavor.
The importance of giving back is something I have heard time and again from the diaspora. People-to-people ties through Guyana’s diaspora serve as a natural bridge between our nations and the substructure of that bridge contributes to resiliency and prosperity for all.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many U.S. diaspora who have stepped up and offered their expertise to build an inclusive Guyana, with economic opportunity for all. Your voices matter, your expertise matters, and I, for one, am grateful. Thank you for your commitment, and please know that the United States supports 100 percent constructive engagements by the Guyanese diaspora.
In closing, let me congratulate the thirty businesses that participated in this year’s program, and even more so the fifteen represented here today. I know you are all wondering who the awardees will be, but please let me be the first to say, you are all winners. The training and coaching you have received was meant to inspire you to new heights, and I assure you that you are part of a larger community that is cheering for your success, because that success is Guyana’s success. For that, you and your communities can be proud. Please take what you learned, share it with others, and continue on the road to prosperity.
Thank you very much.