'Guyana is pregnant with the promise of good fruit'

'Guyana is pregnant with the promise of good fruit'


Friday, February 07, 2020

Print this page Email A Friend!

In late November 2019 I was invited to be a part of a trade mission to Guyana being organised by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) in association with their Guyanese counterpart, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI). The mission was scheduled for January 26 – 31 and would be led by JCC President Lloyd Distant Jr.

I immediately confirmed my attendance for three main reasons: (1) with an average GDP growth of about 4.2 per cent over the past decade, Guyana is one of the fastest developing countries in the region (2) Guyana is poised for significant growth as its nascent oil & gas industry develops rapidly (the IMF estimates 86 per cent growth in 2020, predictably the fastest in the world) and (3) they are going to need a lot of help.

As the CEO of a growing organisation, I believe that I owe it to my shareholders, board of directors and team members to explore the potential growth opportunities with our Caricom partner. So, from my vantage point, how did the trip go?


The first order of the day was to ensure that we all had our Yellow Fever shots. So off to the clinic we went to receive our quick and painless injections and the all-important International Certificate of Vaccination “yellow book”.

The JCC also organised a brief meeting for the members of the mission with Indera Persaud, the honorary consul for Guyana to Jamaica. As many of us had never been to Guyana, she gave us some pertinent demographic, political, religious, socio-economic and cultural highlights. Good to learn was a description of the built environment around Georgetown, which helped to set our expectations around general customer service at some of the hospitality facilities.

My own personal preparations included reaching out to all my friends with Guyanese connections, including the single customer that I have in Georgetown. Apart from all the meetings already set up by the GCCI, I needed to know who else I should be talking to, especially those very important contacts that were not members of the GCCI. I also needed to know where to get the good wine and amazing local food. My list got long very quickly.

Most of the team departed on Sunday, January 26 on a direct 2h 30 min flight to Port of Spain, Trinidad, with a brief layover before boarding a short 55 minute flight to Georgetown. The drive to the hotel was almost as long as the flight from Trinidad.


Our week of activities got off to a good start with an informative press conference organised by the GCCI.

We were officially welcomed by Richard Rambarran, GCCI CEO, while Senior VP Timothy Tucker highlighted the importance of the mission at this time, stating that “Guyana's new status as an oil-producing country will have significant economic impact on the region, and as such, we believe that this is an especially opportune time to work together to further the Jamaica-Guyana economic and commercial partnership.”

He went on to compliment the very positive Guyana-Jamaica relationship which he believes can only grow, further stating that, “There remains, however, unexploited potential for increasing trade between Jamaica and Guyana. In 2018, our countries held talks and agreed to reactivate the Guyana-Jamaica Joint Commission that was set up under the Agreement on Economic, Technical and Cultural Cooperation, which was signed by both states on June 1, 1995.”

JCC President Lloyd Distant gave an overview of the “mini” mission and the industries represented which included enterprises engaged in the provision of ICT services, legal services with a focus on alternative dispute resolution, food distribution & retail, accounting and back-office services, pharmaceuticals and small business development and skills certification.

Owen Verwey, CEO of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) — the counterpart to Jampro — who was also acting as the representative of Haimraj Rajkumar, minister of Business, highlighted the importance and timeliness of this incoming mission and welcomed the potentially positive outcomes. A more fulsome sit-down meeting between GO-Invest and the mission was slated for later in the week.

This short press conference to welcome the mission had good media support and the news that a Jamaican delegation was in town certainly spread very quickly. In addition to all the meetings that were already pre-arranged by the GCCI with its members, other businesses started reaching out to meet with us. Some folks even turned up without appointments to try their luck.


Each of the organisations in the delegation were asked by the JCC to prepare a profile in advance which included what sort of opportunities they were looking for. This was shared with the GCCI who organised meetings with their members based on the match.

We each received a timetable that included one-on-one business to business (B2B) meetings scheduled on the Monday to Wednesday from 10 am to 3 pm.

Thursday started to fill up very quickly as our presence in town was becoming more known via radio, television and newspaper. Some of our meetings spawned second meetings to further explore opportunities.


An important organisation to meet with for anyone considering setting up business in Guyana is GO-Invest. Their mission is to contribute to Guyana's economic development by promoting and facilitating local and foreign private-sector investment and exports in accordance with the country's approved investment and export strategies.

Verwey, CEO of GO-Invest, met with the delegation and outlined their responsibilities and services, list of incentives and concessions and the process for starting a business in Guyana. After Verwey's presentation we were all crystal clear on the key reasons why we should be investing in Guyana and why now:

(1) energy and energy-related activities, in particular the ExxonMobil-led Consortium's gigantic oil finds;

(2) support services required for energy and related sectors;

(3) existing support and development opportunities required for extractive Industries, ie. oil and gas, minerals and forestry;

(4) opportunities to capture changing demographics/population etc;

(5) lots of land for agricultural development and;

(6) opportunity for doing value add to agriculture, forestry and minerals.


The Private Sector Commission of Guyana (PSG) and its chairman Captain Gerry Gouveia shared with us other major opportunities in Guyana based on the expected construction of a highway to Brazil, which would save Brazil millions of US$ on the cost of transportation to shipping routes. The project has been in stop-start mode for years.

Capt Gouveia went on to highlight another key focus for the PSC and its members — the governance and security of Guyana. He emphasised that “the worst thing that can happen to a country like us that is on the threshold of this massive economic explosion is to have a government that does not respect the rule of law.” Gouveia was very passionate in his plea for all private sector entities in the region to make their voices heard if there are threats to the rule of law in any other Caribbean country.

The delegation paid courtesy calls on a number of other support organisations including meeting with Clinton Williams, president of the Guyana Manufacturers & Services Association and with Dr Natasha Gaskin-Peters, deputy country director of the Centre for Local Business Development (CLBD). The CLBD was established by DAI (originally Development Alternatives Inc) in association with Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd (EEPGL), an affiliate of ExxonMobil. The Centre provides business training, mentorship, embedded technical advisors, industry information and analysis to help link local suppliers with oil and gas supply chain opportunities.


With origins dating back to 1840, several of us had the great pleasure of visiting the conglomerate Banks DIH Limited, which is perhaps Guyana's largest publicly-traded company.

The principal activities of the group are: the brewing, blending, bottling and wholesale marketing of beers, wines, liquors and assorted beverages, the processing of food items, the operation of restaurants, bars, laundry services, hotel and the operation of commercial banking.

We met with chairman and managing director, the visionary Clifford Reis, and some of his executives who shared some very interesting history of the organisation and some new impending developments which include entering the energy and auto sales industries.

After, members of the Banks management team took us on a short tour of their manufacturing facilities.

An interesting discovery for me was that Banks DIH Limited manufactures wines from rice. Some that I tasted could definitely be used for banquet and all-inclusive pouring.


“The Jamaica International Arbitration Centre Limited (JAIAC) was represented in the mini trade mission to Guyana by Secretary General Dr Christopher Malcolm. The engagements had by Dr Malcolm with members of the Guyanese private sector, and with their representative bodies, were enlightening and pregnant with promise of good fruit. While there are as yet no hatched chickens to be counted, there is good reason to believe that the JAIAC could not, in short order, establish a viable presence in Guyana.,” the Jamaica International Arbitration Centre stated.

“It was a rewarding experience that brought value and the opportunity to learn about another great Caribbean neighbour,” — Ryan Sterling, CEO/Head of Business Development Vertis Technology. saod/Very special thanks to the GCCI Secretariat and the JCC Secretariat, especially to the JCC's Marcia Gray who was our administrator and coordinator on the ground.

Christopher Reckord is the Chief Executive Officer for leading information technology support organization tTech Limited.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaper-login




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon