Guyana President David Granger has issued a message of deepened economic cooperation and collaboration among CARICOM neighbours and breaking down immigration barriers for true free movement of regional people.
Against a backdrop of oil discoveries in Guyana of a potential five billion barrels surpassing that of Trinidad and Tobago and reportedly set to net the country an average US$1 million per day when extraction begins in 2020, the Guyanese leader spoke to his nationals resident in Barbados but addressed Barbadians and the entire region as he made clear all are invited to jointly explore the mineral rich CARICOM territory.
“We have to start thinking regional rather than thinking island,” he said to dozens of Guyanese in the courtyard of the Guyana Consulate, Harbour View House, Highgate Park, Collymore Rock.
“I’m encouraging you Guyanese in the diaspora, I’m encouraging Barbadians and Jamaicans and people from all over the . . . Caribbean to show interest in the investment possibilities in Guyana so that we could not only promote Guyanese manufacturing industry, but we could all get wealthy, we could all get rich,” he said.
“We have to get rid of this xenophobia, this feeling that this is Jamaican, this is Antiguan,” he said, and added, “I think we’re coming out of an era in which because of the changes in population people realise that migration, free movement, the ability of workers, hair dressers, and architects to move around freely is a good thing”.
Granger, who flew back to Georgetown on Thursday night was here for a CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) meeting called Wednesday by Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
The Government of Barbados is the CARICOM-designated lead nation responsible for pushing forward the CSME.
“I made a special effort to come because if there is one thing Guyanese want to hear about is hassle free movement of people in the Caribbean,” said Granger, who went on to explain his travelling is so limited this year that he will miss the UN General Assembly but favoured the meeting with Mottley.
“Listening to Mia Mottley, listening to everything we discussed yesterday, I think we are seeing the light at the end of that dark period of harassment that some people have to undergo,” he said.
In fact, the Granger-Mottley bilateral talks went so far beyond the CARICOM meeting that the Prime Minister was unable to attend a University of the West Indies 70th anniversary function that evening.
While Granger expressed the all-CARICOM embracing view on exploitation of his country’s resources and other opportunities, he noted that lingering matters of travel restrictions for his citizens and others remain a bugbear.
His meeting with Mottley produced results in this area, he suggested.
“I think she is committed. I think she is sincere and it will bring an end to the stigmatisation of Guyanese, Jamaicans and of Haitians that helped to keep the community apart, and at the same time helped to strangle this whole movement towards the Single Market and Economy.”
He added: “We have to think Caribbean people must be able to move freely from country just as you move from parish to parish.
“I believe in Mia Mottley. I’ve seen a clear indication that she wants to solve this problem of movement of persons and she wants to get the Caribbean Single Market and Economy going.”
In his message that Guyana with its imminent oil boom is open to all of CARICOM he said: “the rising river lifts all the boats”.
Granger noted that owing to the economic and political crisis in neighbouring Venezuela, many nationals of that country have fled to Guyana where government is providing areas to reside along with support services including medical care.
“If we can do that much for the Bolivarian Venezuelans, how much more can we do for the Barbadians, Antiguans and Barbudans?
“I am a Caribbean citizen. I think for Ms Mottley it is the same. She is a Caribbean citizen. And that is where we are moving to because we have the land space, but what we do not have in some areas is the capital, and the expertise.”