Suriname on the verge of three large investments
Stabroek News
November 2, 2001

Dear Editor,

Like most concerned Guyanese I have followed with great interest the debate concerning Aroaima Bauxite Company (ABC) in which the American titan Alcoa has a major stake. The last word is that Alcoa is pulling out from ABC thus leaving the government with full ownership and responsibility. This is indeed a retrograde step for Guyana because it completely reverses the privatization and free-market oriented policies that President Hoyte had instituted a little over a decade ago.

However, it is worthwhile to know that neighbouring Suriname will now receive almost $2 billion (US) in new direct investments from Alcoa itself according to a recent report carried in the globally respected 'Financial Times'. This investment will be spread out over the course of the next three years and will include the construction of power and smelter facilities to cope with the new ore that will be extracted from Suriname's mineral rich Backhuys Mountains.

In addition, the French multinational, Pechiney has just concluded high-level discussions with the Surinamese for the early investment also of $1 billion (US) and the world's largest gold mining company - AngloGold (parent of DeBeers Diamonds) of South Africa is also understood to be in current discussions with the Surinamese Government with a view to investing close to $500 million(US) over the next two years. This will no doubt mean that Suriname which has been identified as the world's 17th richest country by the Washington DC based Heritage Foundation, would have received close to $4 billion (US) including other smaller investments from elsewhere over a three year span. Guyana, on the other hand has received a little under $700 million for the last decade. What a disgrace to put it mildly is the order of the day here.

There is no need to acquire a doctorate in economics to understand the reasons why companies such as Alcoa will choose a Dutch speaking nation with a violent past over Guyana - a nation that so often boasts about it being the only English speaking country in South America and about being the 'breadbasket of the Caribbean'. Guyana is more of a 'basketcase' than a 'breadbasket' are due to the government's ambivalent policies towards the role of private capital in the economic development of the country. Investors have become used to the bureaucratic nightmare that envelops them from the moment they set foot in the country.

The global investment community can certainly do without the trials and tribulations that have come to characterize investing in Guyana. Many companies as it is are facing tough times raising investment capital, taking care of their customers and maximizing shareholder value and will therefore be more in favour of an open, transparent and non-cumbersome business environment in which to invest.

Yours faithfully,

Mike Singh