Ambassador Ishmael actively canvasses investments
Stabroek News
February 21, 2002

Dear Editor,

I take exception to Mr. Peter R. Ramsaroop's opinion in his letter [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] (l9.2.2002) that Ambassador Odeen Ishmael "continues to perform only a diplomatic role."

Incidentally, the diplomatic role itself is not insignificant. It includes serving not only as Ambassador to the United States, but also Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) and interim Ambassador to the United Nations (UN).

Perhaps the line is clear for Mr. Ramsaroop between diplomacy and as he put it, "marketing." Most professionals understand that both constitute two sides of the same coin. For example, debt reduction is not so "automatic" as Mr. Ramsaroop suggests. Qualifying for HIPC debt relief requires demonstrated evidence of real macro economic reform consistent with principles of free enterprise. Proof of this sometimes requires a nation to endure short term fiscal discipline and economic pain. Argentina was not willing to put its house in economic order and as a result, history speaks for itself.

Just compare the few nations that have qualified for HIPC debt relief with all the heavily indebted and poor countries of the world and you quickly realize that Guyana is in an elite group of emerging countries.

My experience in working with the Ambassador is quite different from Mr. Ramsaroop. I can unequivocally represent that Ambassador Ishmael has timely responded to each and every request for assistance from me, and from various investors that I represent and have represented since 1995. I am not aware of even one instance in which Ambassador Ishmael was asked to speak to any foreign investors and did not.

Ambassador Ishmael primarily serves as a facilitator between investors and government ministries. He helps to arrange meetings with government ministers and other officials. He helps to remove bottlenecks and expedites investment decision making by engaging in appropriate follow ups. If you have ever attended functions in the US where he speaks, you know that he constantly promotes investments in Guyana.

Disappointed investors sometimes blame the messenger or the process. Ambassador Ishmael's job is not to evaluate the merits of the proposed investment. The investment lives or dies on its

own merit. Investors also sometimes mistakenly assume that how business is conducted in one country is the same in another. Investors fail for many reasons: the timing is not right, the point of contact is not correct, the necessary information is not presented, the risk appetite is low, and the list goes on and on.

Investors in Guyana are not unlike investors elsewhere. All demand demonstrated and reliable infrastructure in roads, electricity, communications, water and sewerage, among others. In the early 1960's, these basic infrastructure requirements were in relatively good shape. By the early 1990's, Guyana∆s lack of basic infrastructure was a real barrier for investors.

In ten years, this administration took seriously the task of putting reliable infrastructure back in place. Not surprisingly, investors are now taking Guyana more seriously. For example, even the casual reader of our newspapers will see the exciting developments and possibilities taking place in telecommunications.

Let us not pretend that investing in Guyana is a walk in the park. The challenges are enormous and the risks still remain high. But the rewards are there for those with an eye on the future, for those with the energy, the resources, and the willingness to make the necessary sacrifices and take the necessary risks.

Ambassador Ishmael recruited me back in 1995 to serve as one of Guyana's Honorary Trade Representatives in the United States. I served in that position until 2000, when I received various telecommunications licenses from the government. It is because this government has a few good men with impeccable integrity and ability, like Ambassador Ishmael, that I took the risk to return to my native country as an entrepreneur.

Yours faithfully,

Earl Singh, CEO

Caribbean Wireless Telecom