I write in response to a letter headlined “I was not impressed with the presentation at the investment forum in Florida” (07.11.06) written by Mr. Narainedat Harripersaud.
I regret that Mr. Harripersaud was not impressed with the presentation and it would seem the forum in general. However, from the feedback I got at the conclusion of the forum, a majority of the participants were satisfied with the information which Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud shared with them and were also happy to know that the United States government, through USAID, is playing a pivotal role in assisting with the development of export markets for agricultural products.
Let me disclose here that I served as chair of the forum and provided some assistance with identifying and inviting potential investors to this event. I have been involved in investment promotion for many years having served as a consultant with the now defunct Eastern Caribbean Investment Promotion Service (ECIPS) and with Caribbean/Latin American Action (CLAA). My work while serving in the Organization of American States (OAS) also involved some investment promotion policy formulation.
Over the years I have heard numerous investment promotion presentations from both politicians and technocrats representing nations from around the world. In my view, Minister Persaud’s presentation was very informative and provided the basis for potential investors to begin their evaluation about investing in Guyana. Investment promotion presentations are not “flowery” speeches but rather the provision of hard information on potential markets, incentives, trade agreements, supporting infrastructure and the like.
Mr. Harripersaud says he found the Minister’s power point presentation distracting. This is the age of information technology and there is hardly a serious presentation these days that does not involve the use of power point. From my vantage point on the stage that night I saw several people taking notes from the information provided on the screen.
One interesting aspect of the minister’s presentation was that while highlighting the investment opportunities available, he pointed also to the challenges which potential investors face and identified some of the steps being taken to reduce those challenges.
Further, during the question and answer period, a foreign businessman alluded to his unsuccessful efforts to invest in Guyana during the Hoyte administration. In his response the minister never sought to score political points by criticizing the Hoyte administration. He simply apologized to the businessman for having encountered that experience, assured him that current mechanisms for dealing with potential investors are much more efficient and encouraged him to once again consider investing in Guyana. This was a very professional response in my view.
On the issue of the target audience, invitees were identified from several sources. The invitees included a mix of Guyanese American and other entrepreneurs involved in sugar, citrus and vegetable cultivation; acquaculture and seafood production and distribution, import and export, banking, finance and shipping.
Some of the non-Guyanese chose to seek one-on-one meetings with the minister and in two cases, the minister was invited and did visit the operations of these two major agricultural operations.
The majority of participants were Guyanese Americans but Mr. Harripersaud suggests that most of them were the wrong target. I don’t know how he arrived at this conclusion. Not only were there potential Guyanese investors but people who have recently invested and who used the opportunity to seek solutions to problems they are encountering.
One person spoke of investing in the cultivation of land on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway and sought the minister’s assistance in resolving a problem he faces. The minister and the gentleman spoke in greater detail after the forum and according to the gentleman, the minister has undertaken to follow up on his matter. Another participant began her question by saying ‘I am an investor in Guyana’ and proceeded to identify her problem.
As I write this letter, two Guyanese American businesspersons based in Orlando and who attended the forum, are on their way to Guyana to follow up on their intention to invest in the poultry sector.
I don’t agree with Mr. Haripersaud that most of the Guyanese Americans at the forum were the wrong target. Perhaps there were other Guyanese American entrepreneurs that could have benefited from this forum. The forum (and its related meetings) was very useful and its true success will be judged by the investments that result.
I have always maintained that I will criticize when the need arises and will offer praise where and when praise is due. I commend the Government of Guyana for embarking on these investment promotion seminars and congratulate Minister Persaud on his informative presentation and straightforward approach in answering questions. The presentations by Mr. Peter Hubbard, USAID Mission Director in Guyana and Mr. Carl Larkins, Chief of Party of the Guyana Trade and Investment Support (GTIS) project were not only informative, but served as testimony to the potential of Guyana’s agriculture sector.