GuyExpo kicks off – See opportunity in hard times

-Jagdeo urges private sector
GuyExpo, the country’s largest trade and investment event, opened last evening with a challenge thrown out to the private sector to see opportunities in the midst of a harsh economic climate.

These representatives of A&C Leather Care/Leather Land International told patrons at GuyExpo last evening that if they can have the sandal seen in this photo if it fits.
These representatives of A&C Leather Care/Leather Land International told patrons at GuyExpo last evening that if they can have the sandal seen in this photo if it fits.

After a one-year break due to last year’s Carifesta celebrations, GuyExpo returned to the National Exhibition Site at Sophia. This year’s event is being held under the theme ‘Promoting Business in a Low Carbon Environment.’

During the feature address, President Bharrat Jagdeo emphasized the need “to see opportunity even in the most challenging of times” as this was one of the keys to long-term entrepreneurial success. Emphasizing the importance of the partnership between the government and the private sector, Jagdeo said that his government remained committed to the view that there was “no incompatibility between a strong, vibrant private sector and a compassionate, active government.”

The key to this partnership is set out in the National Development Strategy (NDS), which

President Bharrat Jagdeo (second from right) assists two girls in cutting the ribbon last evening following the Opening Ceremony of GuyExpo. Looking on are co-Chairmen of the event Derrick Cummings (second from left) and Trade and Commerce Minister Manniram Prashad (right).  (Photo by Jules Gibson)
President Bharrat Jagdeo (second from right) assists two girls in cutting the ribbon last evening following the Opening Ceremony of GuyExpo. Looking on are co-Chairmen of the event Derrick Cummings (second from left) and Trade and Commerce Minister Manniram Prashad (right). (Photo by Jules Gibson)

later led to the National Competitiveness Strategy (NCS), Jagdeo said even as he pointed out that the latter included updated parts of the NDS. He emphasized that these two strategies were the “bedrock” of his government’s economic plans for the country.  He said that the NDS presented an overall strategic framework and the NCS the more detailed set of policy initiatives.

Jagdeo noted that one of the aspects of economic development that his government did not fully understand when the NDS and the NCS were drafted was the “potential transformational impact that Climate Change would have on our country, on our economy and our people’s well-being.” Identifying the negative impact that climate change had already had on the country, he said that it was an area in which the government has since taken great interest.

Speaking about the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) he said that it was not intended to replace the NDS or the NCS but to augment them to enhance national development and also to provide a means to work with other territories to address the critical issue of climate change.

Mini beauties: the dolls in this photo are dressed in custom made clothing representing the various cultures present in Guyana. They were being display for sale at GuyExpo 2009 last evening.
Mini beauties: the dolls in this photo are dressed in custom made clothing representing the various cultures present in Guyana. They were being display for sale at GuyExpo 2009 last evening.

He emphasized that persons needed to move beyond seeing climate change solely as problem but as an issue that needed a solution, while adding that smaller countries had to lead the charge as they stood to suffer the most from the effects of Climate Change.

Hailing the event as “the most important event on the calendar of trade and investment in Guyana,” Trade and Commerce Minister Manniram Prashad promised that this year’s event “would be a far more enriching experience.” He said that this year’s exhibition included representatives from various countries including Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Barbados, St Lucia, Canada and the USA.

Stating that the private sector is the engine of growth and development, he said that it needed to work together with other entities “to build a low carbon economy where national development and combating climate change are complementary.” He said that business persons must take advantage of the investment opportunities in a low carbon environment.

Prashad, who is also co-Chairman of this year’s Guy Expo, while highlighting some of the efforts the government has made to aid the business community pointed to the Small Business Act which was passed. This is meant to assist small and medium sized businesses.  He said that this involved the establishment of a Small Business Council, Bureau and Fund. He said that the Council has already been set up and that the fund will soon be operational, since the Small Business Bureau is now being established.    He also pointed to the matching-grant initiative as another positive achievement.

The Competitive Commission which is a requirement of the Treaty of Chaguaramas has also been established, he noted.  He said that this ensures that no local or foreign company doing business in Guyana acts in a manner that is harmful to another or against consumer interest in the market place.

He also stated that reforms are underway to make significant reform in the operation of customs and the licensing agents to make ease “to import and export with less red tape.”

The Minister said that the country just became a member of the Trade Point International and that by the end of the year Trade Point Georgetown should be established.  This will link buyers and sellers to the internet in a virtual market place. He said that they are exploring via the National Competitiveness Strategy the possibility of having the Caribbean Development Fund link Guyana into a trade network, even as he pointed out that St Lucia is already benefitting from this initiative.

In his brief address, Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Capt. Gerry Gouveia called on entrepreneurs to conduct businesses with “a high level of  corporate  social responsibility and urged  them to “embrace good and responsible environmental practices.”

He noted that this would include minimizing the emission of dangerous gases.

In highlighting the importance of climate change to the lives of everyone, Gouveia said that in the future renewable energy sources needed to be pursued and stated that it is imperative that the nation pursue hydropower.

Gouveia also underscored the importance of the partnership between the public and private sector, saying that it was integral if the country was to advance.  Meanwhile, he said that the PSC will welcome any foreign investor who was willing to invest in Guyana.

Speaking about the performance of the private sector as the world went through a global financial crisis, Gouveia said that a recent study done by three economists from the University of Guyana showed that the impact of this crisis on local businesses was minimal. He said that the few businesses that suffered would have done so because of failure to be innovative and creative.

Hence, he underscored that the private sector had to be innovative as they looked to the future.

GuyExpo was launched in 1995 by the Guyana Office for Trade and Investment (GoInvest), the Guyana Manufacturers’ Association and the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce as a bi-annual event to showcase locally produced goods and services. The event became an annual one in 2004.

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