By Kemol King
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (DPI) – His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali made an impassioned proposal to connect the manufacturing and services sectors of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, addressing the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturing Association president’s Dinner and Awards 2021, Tuesday evening.
The president’s comments were made in the context of the myriad opportunities that could be capitalised on in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) if all members remove the barriers to trade.
“If you look at the possibilities for Guyana and Trinidad. You have better-developed port facilities, lower cost of energy and locational advantages. We have strong bilateral cooperation. We have cross border investment arrangements, but how do we look at marrying the competitive advantage of Trinidad with the competitive advantage of Guyana, in developing industries and opportunities for both our manufacturing and services sectors, how?
“You have an opportunity in the manufacturing and services association to rally around the region, to come together… There are many areas we could have import substitution. Why is it not happening?”
The president posited, for example, that though agriculture contributes 0.5 percent of the twin-island republic’s gross domestic product (GDP) and agricultural food accounts for 2.6 percent of exports, Trinidad and Tobago has the potential to become a major processing, packaging and manufacturing hub for food, one to two hours away in Guyana.
Dr Ali, who takes the lead on agriculture in the Community’s Quasi-Cabinet, listed some of CARICOM’s key food imports from 2018 to 2020, to demonstrate the need for those foods could be met right within the region.
“Dairy, milk and cream, cheese and curd, buttermilk, meat, goat, sheep, beef, swine, edible vegetables and roots, cabbage, eschalot, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and dried legumes. Can’t we do this?”
President Ali said Guyana is currently working on an expansion of the coconut industry throughout the region.
“We have enough potential to build the coconut industry, one of the most lucrative industries globally, to meet regional demand, and to create substitution, but we have to have the will at every single level, and as government around the region, we have to create an enabling environment.
The president has always maintained that Guyana is appreciative of its role within CARICOM and that the country’s wealth will be shared with the region. He is also a staunch advocate for the removal of barriers to trade, which he called “nonsensical” on Tuesday evening.
In October, the president, in his virtual address at the 16th Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2021, signalled that he will push aggressively for barriers to intra-regional trade of agricultural produce to be removed.
The president had said the region cannot speak seriously about reducing the significant regional food import bill while keeping non-tariff barriers in place.