(L-R) Finance Minister and Governor of Guyana to the Islamic Bank, Winston Jordan; Suriname's Alternate Governor to the IsDB, Dr Anwar Lall Mohammed; and Dr Shamir Ally, Guyana's Alternate Governor to the IsDB in Tunis
By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname — The excellent working relationship between the finance ministers of Suriname, Gillmore Hoefdraad, and his Guyanese counterpart, Winston Jordan, and especially now that Guyana joined the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), has resulted in the imminent opening of a regional office of the IsDB in Paramaribo.
According to Jordan, this office will have operational oversight for Suriname, Guyana and the extended Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Latin American region.
This major development will foster stronger ties between the bank and CARICOM and see quicker approval and executions of projects in Guyana and Suriname. It will result in these countries taking advantage of the many products offered by the bank and especially the development of the private sectors of Guyana and Suriname. It will also support technology transfer and capacity building in Guyana and Suriname, which has experienced a brain drain.
The office will also raise the international profile of CARICOM and, in addition to the IMF, World Bank, Caribbean Development Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, the IsDB will offer the region favourable concessionary loans, grants and needed technology.
At the recent 43rd meeting of governors of the IsDB held in Tunis on April 3-5, which was attended by the finance ministers of Guyana and Suriname, the IsDB president, Dr Bandar Hajjar, called for a “new development model” that will lead to “strategic long term economic transformation” of member states and it should be driven by 4Ps – public, private, philanthropy and partnership, he said.
According to the IsDB president, the role of the private sector in meeting the financing needs of 57 member countries is crucial.
“We have to think about innovative ideas that will attract the interest of the private sector,” he said.
The bank has also approved $500 million for science and technology. This is good news for Guyana and Suriname because of recent push to improve science and technology across the curriculum in those countries that are lagging behind in developing human capacity.
Also, in more favourable news for Guyana and Suriname, the IsDB launched a major report on transforming agriculture and rural development in its member countries in Tunis last week. The report highlighted how the IsDB is working with member countries to change lives and build capacity of farmers, especially those in rural areas.
“Agriculture is very important especially if we have a value-chain approach. Our role as a development bank is to find new ways of helping farmers. We believe awareness is important in improving agriculture in our member countries,” Hajjar said.
Dr Shamir Ally, Guyana’s alternate governor to the IsDB, and Dr Anwar Lall Mohamed, Suriname’s alternate governor to the IsDB, were also at the Tunis meeting. They have developed a good working relationship, and Suriname is supporting Guyana, the newest member of the IsDB.
In Tunisia, Hoefdraad said that the IsDB has been an important partner in the recovery and renewed growth outlook of Suriname. In April 2016, Suriname and the IsDB Group signed an agreement that outlined a “path for future support of our adjustment efforts through increased concessional financial and technical support.”
“The IsDB Group and the government of Suriname formulated a work program beginning in 2017 that covers projects and grants for about US$1.78 billion. These projects are focusing on areas such as infrastructure, agriculture and rural development, human development, Islamic banking and finance, and trade and competitiveness,” he told the gathering.
With the support of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), a multilateral development financial institution of the IsDB and the government of Suriname, the first Islamic bank in Suriname, Trustbank Amanah was launched in Paramaribo.
The finance minister of Suriname praised the bank and called on it to continue supporting Suriname “to overcome the macroeconomic challenges” his country is facing.
“I call on the Islamic Development Bank to support the member countries’ efforts, in particular in cases like Suriname where a country has begun implementing a comprehensive and fundamental adjustment package to deal with the consequences of commodity price shocks, and fundamental reforms to minimize the country’s vulnerability to exogenous shocks,” he said.