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Guyana to use oil wealth to transform economy

The small South American nation of Guyana, which currently has the world’s fastest growing economy, is planning to avoid the curse that often accompanies the discovery of oil wealth by transforming into a regional hub for education, health and transport, according to the country’s president.

The country is the only English-speaking country in South America, being a former British colony, and it has a population of under a million, but its prospects saw a radical shift when ExxonMobil, the maker of Mobil lubricant products, discovered substantial offshore oil reserves in its waters. It is planning to elude the so-called “oil curse”, where oil revenues sometimes lead to economic and political dysfunction, by investing oil revenues in developing other economic sectors to maximise the country’s potential.

Irfaan Ali, the country’s president, was in London seeking investment recently. During an interview with the Financial Times, he said his country was investing considerably in education and healthcare, adding that:

“Not only are we investing in healthcare and education to fulfil the needs of Guyanese, we’re investing in healthcare and education as important foreign currency earners of the future…so Guyana can become a health and education hub for South America, for the Caribbean and the huge diaspora that resides in North America.”

Improving the transport infrastructure is also part of this plan, because the country has traditionally been isolated from its neighbours by jungle and rivers. New bridges and highways will connect it to northern Brazil to the south and Suriname and French Guiana to the east.

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