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Guyana is central to the Caribbean development and its geopolitics -Dr. Leon

President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr Gene Leon (centrer, unmasked) is meeting
with private sector leaders on the last day of his first mission to Guyana

By Kaieteur News

Petroleumworld 07 19 2021

President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Hyginus ‘Gene' Leon, in an recent interview with the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN) noted that, with revenues from its booming oil and gas sector and its projected long-term growth trajectory, Guyana is expected to play a lead role in the Caribbean region's development in the coming years and that all eyes are on Guyana for cooperation and assistance in taking the Caribbean region forward.

The CBD President noted, “Guyana at this stage—at what I would describe as the cusp of a very significant shift in its growth trajectory long term—is also, by extension, at the cusp of being able to marshal the effort to help the Region in terms of going forward, and the CDB is equally at the same point where it would like to bring that together and coordinate that very focus of development…I think that Guyana becomes a natural ally and partner, both in that sense in terms of its own development and pushing regional development and cooperation to different heights.”

In 2020, Guyana was the only borrowing member of the Bank and within the Caribbean to record economic growth, at a whopping 26 percent, solely due to the start-up of oil production.

The position of the CBD President as it relates to Guyana's importance to the Caribbean seemed to hardly be an isolated one. According to a recent article by Senior Associate at CSIS, Scott B Macdonald, the southern Caribbean is undergoing changes, pushed along by the discovery of significant commercial offshore oil finds in the Guiana Shield, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on regional economies, and a slide into a new Cold War-like situation between the U.S. and China. The article further contends that the petro state of Guyana is central to this development as a lynchpin for the Southern Caribbean's geopolitics.

First and foremost is the discovery of oil offshore Guyana. It is estimated that Guyana's oil output could reach 1.2 million bpd by 2030, which would make it a rival to Venezuela, where production has radically declined. That could generate billions of dollars in revenues, catapulting what many had regarded as an economic backwater into petro-state status and those changes would bring greater political and economic weight in Caribbean affairs. Guyana's nascent transformation from one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere into a heavyweight energy producer has brought the world knocking on the country's door. The U.S. has been active in providing support to Guyana, but the country has also gained greater attention from European and Asian countries, including China and India.

President Nicolás Maduro has revived the long harboured claims of roughly two-thirds of the English-speaking country. Venezuela's bellicosity derives from two things. The Maduro regime needs something to unify the country. During his time in office, the country has suffered from hyper-inflation, a multi-year massive contraction of the economy, scarcity of basic staples, and a breakdown in law and order, which has led to over 5 million refugees fleeing what once was the wealthiest country in Latin America. Renewing old claims on Guyana seeks to stir up nationalist passions and take some of the heat off the corrupt regime. Placing pressure on Guyana also allows Maduro an opportunity to strike back in some way against the US, which he regards as the bane of his regime. This has also been a factor in bringing in other external actors into the Caribbean; Venezuela's growing ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, another erstwhile US rival, has heightened tensions as the Middle Eastern country earlier sent tankers filled with gasoline and in June sent a shipment of seven high-speed missile boats to its Latin American ally.

In June 2021, Guyana was the host for Operation Tradewinds, a multinational military exercise, involving military forces from the U.S., the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, France, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom which served to send a signal to Venezuela's Maduro regime that Guyana has friends, who will show up if the larger country threatens to act on its border claim.

Since the early 2000s, China has emerged as a major economic force in the region, including being a major backer of the Maduro regime. This has resulted in a slide into a Cold War-like jousting between the US and China over influence in the Caribbean. China is also a key support (within limits) for Cuba, another country the US has issues. The US was slow in recognising the economic and strategic challenge of China and the potential for a “pivot to China” by Caribbean governments' need for finance to develop critical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, airports and harbours. In Guyana, China has emerged as an important source of financing and constructing of infrastructure, including the Arthur Chung Convention Centre and an expansion project at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.

The article continues by saying that though the world is going green, it will still need oil and natural gas for some time to come. Such likelihood makes Guyana one of the most important players to regional development and foreign markets.

It concludes that Guyana is a key pivot: it shares borders with Venezuela; is seeking to upgrade economic relations with its neighbour Suriname, which has large oil reserves; can be part of an effort along with other Caribbean oil and natural gas producers Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname to drive a regional energy security agenda; and has the ear of the US and China (despite their rivalry in the region). This imposes a responsibility on Guyana to maintain its own political stability, make wise choices in its friends and allies and to emerge as a more influential actor in regional affairs.

Story from Kaieteur News
07 18 2021

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