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From Jasminee Sahoye

TORONTO - A number of Guyana-born entrepreneurs in Toronto, Canada, are upbeat about investing and giving back to their homeland after their first ever business conference in Canada.

The event last Friday gathered about 100 participants under the sponsorship of Laurentian Bank of Canada and was a follow-up to the recent Presidential Business Summit in Georgetown.

The Canadian organisers are hoping that they have set the pace for others in the worldwide Diaspora to emulate.

One of them, Dr Eric Hansen, President of Economic Transformation Groups based in the United States, has worked in Guyana with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to craft the New National Competitiveness Strategy.

He told the Toronto meeting that priority areas for investment in Guyana include aquaculture development, call centres, information technology, manufacturing and tourism.

According to him, the Diaspora in Canada accounts for some 50 per cent of foreign direct investments in Guyana, more than 70 per cent of the non-traditional imports from Guyana and an estimated US$150M in annual transfers.

Hansen said a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Guyana Canada Chamber of Commerce (GCCC) and the Private Sector Commission (PSC) in Georgetown was signed shortly after the Friday caucus that was themed ‘Guyana’s Diaspora Competitiveness.’

The MOU was inked by President of Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Captain Gerry Gouveia and GCCC President, Mr Basil Punit.

Punit said the comprehensive document is aimed at getting GCCC involved with shaping policies and promoting investment and two-way trade.

“More importantly, we are working in conjunction with the private sector as the movers of Guyana. The government will be involved in a facilitating or regulating role,” he said, describing the documentation as a model agreement for signing also by others in the Diaspora around the world.

Punit said GCCC has been in existence for three years and will be creating a data base to match investors from Canada with projects in Guyana and vice versa.

Gouveia agreed the MOU is a conduit between the Diaspora in Canada and the PSC in Guyana.

“We are now going to be able to tap into the resources of the Diaspora in Canada and match that with the private sector in Guyana for the benefit of Guyana. It would make for the Diaspora to easier understand what is it that Guyana needs,” he explained.

Gouveia added that signing the pact is a tangible example of transforming words at the Presidential Summit in Guyana into action.

He said two chairpersons, one each in Canada and Guyana, are going to draft the agenda for working the system.

Guyana’s Honorary Consul General in Toronto, Mr Danny Doobay commented that he would like to see more sustained dialogue on issues affecting both sides.

“What we are looking for is not a single injection into the Guyana economy at any time…what we need to do is to contribute in a continuous way,” he added.

He prefers to see a structured instead of the existing ad hoc policy, pointing out that the former will put the required resources in place and should be implemented very quickly.

“I think, with that, we can go forward into a mobilisation effort that will yield huge dividends in the end,” Doobay stated.

Home Affairs Minister, Ms Gail Teixeira, who addressed the business group, as well, appealed for assistance to develop Guyana.

She said the country is “going through some trying times” and repatriation has not worked well.

“We have to look at the brain gain…we have to find a way to encourage people home,” Teixeira remarked.

Observing that potential investors at the conference expressed concern about the security situation in Guyana, she declared that crime has to be dealt with at the political level.

Guyana Chronicle