By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait — The finance minister of Guyana, Winston Jordan, and his delegation arrived in Kuwait City on Saturday and held a flurry of meetings with government officials and the private sector to showcase Guyana as an investment destination while also addressing Guyana’s existing debt to Kuwait.
The Guyana delegation included the minister of public infrastructure, David Patterson, and head of debt management at the ministry of finance, Donna Marie Yearwood.
Jordan told the meetings that Guyana is “open, with good incentives and concessions available to investors”.
He also informed his audience of Guyana’s new oil and gas discoveries and its transformative impact on the economy.
Jordan called on Kuwaiti businessmen to invest in Guyana’s “growing economy” and met with the deputy chairman of Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mohammad Al-Saqer.
“For investors, we will give generous concessions. We are a country almost equal to the UK in terms of size, but not too many people (700,000 plus), so there are huge developmental challenges. We want investors that can help connect different parts of Guyana,” he said.
The finance minister also addressed Kuwait’s loan to Guyana of US$10 million, which has since increased enormously, and is now about US$70 million. Guyana is looking for some sort of debt relief from Kuwait.
“We had borrowed around $10 million from Kuwait in the 1970s. It was during a time when we really needed help and Kuwait was very generous to reach out and give the money we needed. But now, the amount has grown to about $70 million because of interest. This is the reason why we are here,” Jordan said.
Before coming to Kuwait, the two ministers visited Saudi Arabia, where the delegation met with officials of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr Yousef Al-Othaimeen.
Patterson, in his presentation, spoke about business opportunities available to foreign investors. He informed the audience that Guyana has an abundance of natural minerals, the discovery of oil offshore and the start of production in 2020.
He also drew attention to the country’s green agenda and its goal to be powered 100 percent by renewable energy.
“We will be doing a very unique experiment whereby we will be using resources from oil and hydrocarbons to project ourselves in a renewable state,” Patterson said.
The Guyanese ministers invited Kuwaiti investment in sectors such as agro-processing, aquaculture, eco and sports tourism, energy conservation, renewable energy development and solid waste management.
“We are the only English-speaking country in South America, which is good for the business community. We are a rich country in terms of natural resources and minerals. We have abundant water, so agricultural businesses are thriving. Recently, we discovered that Guyana is also rich in oil – in fact in the next two years, the country expects to begin production. Despite this, we are committed to renewable energy and would like to power our country with renewable energy by 2025,” he said.
Guyana opened an embassy in Kuwait in 2011 with financial support from the Emir of Kuwait, and the embassy represents Guyana’s interests in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and OIC countries as well.
The Guyanese ambassador to Kuwait, Dr Shamir Ally, is also the deputy chairman of the board of directors at the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) and alternate governor to the IsDB.
Jordan welcomed Guyana’s “much-improved and long-standing relations with Kuwait.”
Former Guyanese presidents, Dr Cheddi Jagan, Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar, previously visited Kuwait.