By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Guyana attended the 34th meeting of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC), which was held last week in Istanbul, Turkey. Representing Guyana at the meeting was its permanent ambassador to the United Nations, Michael Ten-Pow, who promoted the opportunities for trade and investment in his country.
It was the first meeting of the COMCEC that Guyana has attended and is an indication that the government is serious about diversifying its economic partners in order to accelerate sustainable socio-economic development.
Ten-Pow told the meeting that Guyana needs “the cooperation of other OIC members for mutually beneficial projects and programs.”
He said that Guyana has vast agricultural lands for leasing that require capital for beneficial exploitation and called on OIC countries that have the capital but lack food security to invest in Guyana.
“We welcome the strengthening of links between higher education institutions in our respective countries, including scholarships and programs for technical and vocational training. The oil and gas sector is new to Guyana and technical and vocational training to build national capacity in that sector would be particularly welcome,” the Guyana ambassador urged member states.
“Even though Guyana is one of only two OIC members in the Americas, we feel very much a part of the Ummah and we therefore welcome the efforts being made throughout the OIC membership,” Ten-Pow said.
“Guyana is relatively underdeveloped, but it is rich in natural resources and brimming with potential. We are significant producers of gold, diamonds, bauxite and soon manganese, and surveys are being conducted to map deposits of other minerals, including uranium and rare metals,” he added.
Ten-Pow also informed the group of Guyana’s vast oil discovery.
Just this week, Exxon Mobil and Hess Corp have increased their oil reserve estimates offshore Guyana by 25 percent from four billion barrels to five billion after making a tenth discovery.
With only a portion of one block explored so far, already more than four billion barrels of proven reserves of high quality light crude have been confirmed. Production is due to start in less than 18 months and is estimated to reach 750,000 bpd by 2025.
Guyana called for more intra-OIC South-South cooperation, which allows member states to share their experiences and especially at a time when multilateralism is under attack and official development assistance (ODA) has been reduced to a trickle, the Guyanese diplomat said.
On the issue of trade, Ten-Pow said that there can’t be trade in goods without the necessary transport infrastructure, and called on OIC states to help Guyana develop shipping routes and airline connectivity.
In concluding his remarks, Ten-Pow reminded members that “there is an outpost of the OIC in South America. We look forward to the day when Guyana can be a bridge to West Africa and a gateway to Latin America for the OIC membership. Guyana is the headquarters of the 14-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and so a diplomatic mission or trade centre opened in Georgetown can serve the entire CARICOM region.”
The four day event was chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan under the theme of “Facilitating Trade: Customs Risk Management.”
“Guyana got a warm reception and the conference was very substantive,” Ten-Pow concluded.