President David Granger has described his official State visit to Chile and meeting with President Michelle Bachelet as highly successful and one that needed to happen, as not only does it open the door to deepened cooperation between the two countries but it solidifies linkages between Chile and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Speaking after the last day of sectoral bilateral meetings in the areas of trade, mining, telecommunications and management of maritime zones, the Head of State said, “it is a strong statement on South American cooperation and it is a strong statement on Chile’s engagement with the Caribbean Community” adding that “it is not only good for Guyana [but also] good for hemispheric relations.”
With Guyana aiming to advance the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector, following the passage of the The Telecommunications Bill, Bill No. 15 of 2016, the Government of Guyana is keen to learn from Chile, which has what is described as one of the most developed telecommunications sectors in Latin America. President Granger and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Greenidge, who accompanied the President on the visit, met on Monday with Undersecretary of Telecommunications, Mr. Pedro Huichalaf at the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications.
Minister Greenidge said that Government is currently in negotiation with the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Limited (GTT) to bring an end to the monopoly in the sector in keeping with the new legal framework and open the way for wider investment in the sector, but the regulatory framework has to be enhanced. “They have to look carefully at their telecoms framework. They have to take decisions about bandwidth. They have to see whether the Public Utilities Commission, which new legislation has been passed on and the telecoms authority for which legislation has been passed, whether those are adequately structured and staffed and whether the mandate covers all that could be expected of it and the people within the agencies perhaps need to have the benefit of some exchange experience with those in the sector,” he said.
Chile, the Minister reported, has offered to provide technical assistance for the strengthening of the capacity of Ministry of Public Telecommunications as well as the PUC to ensure efficient and seamless implementation.
The mining sector is also coming in for support with Chile offering to provide technical assistance for geological mapping, which would allow for a scientific determination of the location of mineral wealth deposits in Guyana. To this end, President Granger and Minister Greenidge met with Undersecretary of Mining, Mr. Ignacio Moreno Fernandez at the Ministry of Mining on Wednesday. Chile has already issued a call for project proposals in the area of Geological and Metallogenic maps and Petrographic Studies from Guyana. This is being reviewed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.
President Granger said that cooperation in this area can lead to more sustainable management and regulation of the extractive sector. Supporting that point, Minister Greenidge said, “It will help us to define what is there and to fashion plans about the development of existing resources, whether is bauxite or manganese or to go into new resources.”
Describing the management of the operations of small and medium scale miners, at the meeting, Mr. Fernandez disclosed that the country has about 1000 small mines operations with an average of seven employees each and that his Ministry has been able to ensure that they are licensed, that they pay taxes and social security for their employees as well as have adequate safety and mines closure plans. The environmental impact of their operations is also closely monitored by the relevant governmental environmental body.
Minister Greenidge indicated this information will be passed on to the Ministry of Natural Resources to further the discussion on technical cooperation in that area.
The President’s final official engagement was held with the Director of Maritime and Environment, Rear Admiral Osvaldo Schwarzenberg at the Complex of Technical Maritime in Valparaiso. The Head of State noted that not only is cooperation important to Guyana in this area, but noted that CARICOM states have already received disaster management and response support from Chile. Additionally, the country has significant capacity in the management of its maritime space that can contribute to regional security with regard to smuggling and other transnational threats.
“We went to the Navy to discuss ways and means of providing support for the Caribbean Maritime effort. I think that is very important, not only in terms of search and rescue, but also in terms of training and collaboration and ensuring that anti-narcotics operations are given support from the Chilean Navy, which is a very strong Navy,” he said.
Minister Greenidge also indicted that he discussed bilateral trade and investment with his Chilean counterpart and indicated that opportunities for technical cooperation were offered in the areas of trade and added that “we discussed investment and how best might we encourage Chilean investors with capital to look at Guyana to see what opportunities there are. The assessment on the Chilean side is that Chilean investors do not really know enough about Guyana to make a judgment and it was there view that the first step ought to be, apart from the provision of general information, to arrange for private sector [engagement].
As follow up actions on all of the areas discussed, the relevant subject Ministries will advance collaborations and follow up on offers of support.
Part of the state visit included visits by the Guyanese delegation to Neruda’s house in Valparaiso. The house was home to Chilean poet and Nobel prize winner Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, who was best known by his pen name Pablo Neruda. The delegation from Guyana to Chile included, in addition to the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Director General, Ambassador Audrey Jardine-Waddell, Desk Officer of Guyana/Chile Bilateral Relations, Ms. Sondra Cheong and Political Advisor to the President, Mr. William Cox.