Senator Aubyn Hill, the minister of industry, investment and commerce, has never seemed as excited about any of his many economic projects as he now is about hitching Jamaica's wagon to that of Caricom partner Guyana.
The Harvard-trained senator apparently knows something definitely worth knowing about Guyana which, only a few years before, had the dubious distinction of being called the poorest country in South America.
In a matter of three months Minister Hill took a combined 100 Jamaican businessmen representing 62 companies on two treks to Guyana, hoping to prospect for golden opportunities to boost economic relations between Kingston and Georgetown.
Mr Hill is to be commended for his foresight and for boldly going where, we are sure, many others will soon be heading, attracted by the distinct smell of crude oil, which has propelled gross domestic product (GDP) in Guyana to 42.7 per cent last year, making it the fastest-growing economy in the world.
And, to demonstrate that this is serious business, it was no less than Vice-President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo who met the Jamaican delegation on the second trip barely three weeks ago to outline the economic prospects beckoning on the immediate horizon.
Guyana's dramatic turnaround in fortunes came in 2015 when the country found oil, followed by an astonishing 18 more discoveries in its giant Guyanese Stabroek block, partnered by Exxon Mobil, Hess, and China National Offshore Oil Corporation.
According to Forbes magazine: "These discoveries contain generous fossil fuel wealth; nearly 11 billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas potential and counting, following the latest spate of new discoveries in April (2022). Exxon and its partners have invested more than US$10 billion in production and plan to pump 1.2 million barrels of oil and gas per day from the block by 2027."
The World Bank's Global Economics Prospects Report for January 2022 noted that, even as the oil sector developed, the non-oil sector continued to show strong growth — 7.7 per cent last year — driven mainly by rebounds in rice-growing, gold-mining, and continued expansion in construction activity, wholesale/retail trade and repairs.
Rather than sitting back and cursing Jamaica's luck in not being able to find commercial deposits of oil, after many years of drilling — and false alarms — Mr Hill and his team have seen the potential for deepening relations in agriculture, trade and investment, mining, energy, health, tourism, youth, and culture.
Jamaica goes to the table with import figures of US$35.12 million in 2021 and considerable muscle in tourism and transportation, given Guyana's huge potential for eco-tourism in the vast virginal hinterland where travel is largely by rivers, notably the Essequibo and Demerara.
For his part, VP Jagdeo has stressed that over the next five years his Government will be building out infrastructure, housing stock, and hotel room count while decreasing unemployment, as it spends its new-found riches on the people.
It was good to see that the two countries were able to hit the ground running by reactivating the Guyana-Jamaica Joint Commission that was set up under the Agreement on Economic, Technical and Cultural Cooperation and which was signed by both states on June 1, 1995.
From here on, the sky should be the only limit.
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