Guyana and Brazil will soon engage in talks aimed at opening up possibilities for joint venture offshore oil and gas exploration.
This will take centre stage when a team from Petrobras, the Brazilian State Oil Company, arrives in the next month or so, Foreign Minister Rudolph Insanally reiterated in Parliament on Monday. The impending meeting was announced during the visit of the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva last month.
This along with mechanisms for the implementation of the international road transport agreement for passengers and cargo between the two countries will form part of the deepening ties between the two countries the minister said.
Insanally, who was speaking in support of the government's budget, said there are many promising opportunities for economic cooperation, which both countries can explore for their common good.
This was one of the positives outlined by the minister who alluded to new horizons being opened to aid in enlarging the country's economic space and consequently its prospects for development.
The minister also used his presentation to outline the positives of linkages as a member of the Association of Caribbean States and Amazonian Cooperation Treaty Organisation and the newly formed South American Community of Nations, which allows the country to be strategically placed to serve as a bridgehead for the Americas.
He pointed to recent visits of the Brazilian and Chilean heads of state as an indication of the deepening relations with that continent which will allow the unlocking of the vast potential such a relationship can bring to this country and other Caricom member states.
Insanally also highlighted the country's elevation to serve on the Bureau of the Rio Group along with Argentina and Brazil, which he noted as a great privilege and honour.
This will enhance the country's growing role within the hemisphere when it chairs the group and hosts the next summit in 2006, Insanally said.
The minister sees this as an indicator of the country's status since it would be the first time in the history of the group that an English-speaking country, with less than one million people will be presiding over an assembly of largely Spanish and Portuguese speaking peoples numbering in excess of 515 million.
Insanally also indicated that his ministry is preparing to translate the vision of the 2005 budget into reality through formulation of a new strategic plan aimed at pursuing the major objectives of the country's foreign policy in the new global dispensation.
Chief among these objectives is the maintenance of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Insanally noted that the dispute with Suriname has been taken to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea with a view to securing a peaceful and definitive settlement. "The memorial, containing our arguments in the case, was submitted a week ago to the court. All things being equal, the case could be concluded and an award made in about three years from now," Insanally said.
Once successful, this would open up exploration and exploitation of the maritime resources, which exist in offshore areas adjacent to Suriname to allow significant transformation of the economy placing the people on the path to development.
The minister also highlighted the evolving relations with neighbouring Venezuela with which this country has a border controversy as well as efforts being made under the United Nations Secretary General's Good Offices to find a peaceful settlement.
He pointed to the recent opening of the Caribbean Community Secretariat headquarters at Liliendaal, which he described as a symbolic demonstration of the country's commitment to the achievement of true regional integration.
This, he said, will further be deepened when the ministry in collaboration with others work to make the country ready to take advantage of the large regional market that will be created by the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).
"It is to be hoped that Guyanese entrepreneurs will now be prepared and poised to grasp the new opportunities that will be created for our country's expansion," the minister said.
He also outlined the country's lead in the agriculture sector in Caricom creating viable economies of scale that would allow the region to compete successfully in the global market.
Insanally also said the country would continue to advocate for joint representation as a way of maximising the region's diplomatic capacity to address the ever-increasing issues on the international agenda. He acknowledged that Guyana was yet to fill some vacancies but has to look at all possibilities before finalising its focus for maximum impact.
The minister also alluded to the recent floods, through which he saw impressive responses from citizens in the diaspora who banded together to provide relief.
He noted that government with the assistance of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean is currently assessing the damage done to the economy during the floods.
PNCR front-bencher and spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Clarissa Riehl had earlier told the National Assembly that shortages in diplomatic staffing at vital overseas missions were not helping the country achieve its objectives.
Riehl also alluded to the absence of the full complement of diplomatic staff including an Ambassador at the country's mission in China.
The PNCR MP also highlighted various shortcomings particularly in the accounting systems of the diplomatic missions where the most recent Auditor General's report identified several deficiencies.
Reading from the AG's report Riehl said government has failed to put proper systems in place to ensure that things are on an even keel.
The situation, she said, was highly undesirable and if the government was unable to upkeep the diplomatic missions it might be preferable for them to be closed
She alluded to government's stated intention in 1992 to promote economic diplomacy as a foreign policy objective, but noted that it had not appointed economic attachÃ© at its missions.
"How could we attract investment... and economic diplomacy if we lack adequate staff?" Riehl asked. She referred to the current expenditure as giving the minister a basket to fetch water.
Riehl also examined moves by government to place the country on a footing to develop ties with continental neighbours while highlighting that the economy is not being prepared to facilitate the shift.
She urged government to start thinking big and focus its attention on the larger things and stop micro-managing the economy.
And she urged that persons get up and help develop the country and break the cycle of dependence on the international financial institutions.
She said this was crucial to the retention of skills particularly of young people who are leaving in droves. However Insanally saw this as the product of globalisation, which the country had no choice but to follow.
Riehl also alluded to Brazilian enclaves springing up in Regions One (Barima/Waini), Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni), Eight (Potaro/ Siparuni) and Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) with an estimated 40,000 citizens of that neighbouring territory settled in the country's interior.
She said this number is set to increase significantly when the Takutu Bridge is eventually completed. However Insanally said this figure was grossly over overestimated and more Guyanese might be settled in the neighbouring republic.
Riehl also suggested that land be offered in the interior as an incentive via a lottery to encourage locals to begin the process of interiorisation which was successfully developed by the Brazilians and saw them build a new capital on virgin lands. This would have a two-prong effect: habitation of interior areas especially near border communities which could help stave off aggression; it could also be an innovative way of avoiding squabbles over the small coastal strip where population was currently centred.
"Let us unleash the potential of the people," Riehl said, encouraging government to think large and help rekindle the pioneering spirit of the people.
However Insanally while recognising it as a good idea said globalisation dictates that persons are not keen on the pioneering efforts but need infrastructure before moving to some areas.