– outgoing PSC Chairman
Outgoing Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Captain Gerry Gouveia is advocating that government invest between $2 million and $4 million annually in an aggressive marketing initiative aimed at “selling Guyana” to the international community. “It is a small investment. Other countries in the Caribbean and other small countries elsewhere spend many times that amount, in some cases tens of millions of dollars, marketing themselves,” Gouveia told Stabroek Business.
“We definitely do not have all of the time in the world to make a decision about investing seriously in the international marketing of our country. Much has been done to fix the country’s economy, to ready it for foreign investment and the efforts to market Guyana through various types of private sector product promotion at trade fairs are not enough. We need a coordinate, concerted effort and the responsibility for this effort lies with government. A stage has now been reached where excuses associated with lack of funds is probably unacceptable. After all, this is an investment in the growth of our country and the expansion of our economy.”
According to Gouveia a marketing exercise of the magnitude that he envisages would probably necessitate the recruitment of a specialist marketing firm “which has an understanding of what the world needs to know about Guyana and how Guyana should be sold to the rest of the world. In addition to that whichever company is recruited to work for Guyana has to be briefed on our strengths and our weaknesses and the difficulties that we have faced in marketing ourselves.”
The PSC Chairman also told Stabroek Business that he believed the time is long overdue to restructure “our Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates to ensure that they are equipped to market Guyana. Here, I am not suggesting that we abandon the kind of traditional effort usually associated with conventional diplomacy. My point is that we need to see the marketing of our country as an integral part of the diplomatic… and if we accept that this is how it is then surely we can also accept that there is a need to reconfigure the structure of our missions, particularly in those countries that are more strategically important to us.”
Citing Brazil as an example of a country in which Guyana should be marketed aggressively, Gouveia noted that while Guyana and Brazil have had diplomatic relations since the 1960s, “we have not really done a great deal through our diplomatic mission to market Guyana in Brazil. Most Brazilians still know little about Guyana.”
And according to Gouveia the objective realities of the relationship between Guyana and Brazil now dictate that we pay more attention to the business potential that will derive from closer relations with northern Brazil. “This is where I believe that the government has to step in, to initiate marketing exercises, extensive ones that is, that will create the fertile ground on which investment – from both sides of the border – might flow.”
Gouveia told Stabroek Business that what is required is a marketing initiative that addresses the whole country. “We can no longer rely on the kind of sporadic marketing exercise that has to do with the excellence of our rum or the beauty of Kaieteur. That is not enough. Despite all of those initiatives Guyana is still best known internationally for the negative things that have happened here or those that people perceive to happen here. We need to market the entire country, its peoples, its customs, its culture and its investment potential. I say again that this is a government responsibility. Funding for such an exercise has to come from government. It has to be consistent from one year to the next and it has to be seen as an investment in getting the rest of the world to know where Guyana is. In that way we can lay a firm foundation for attracting foreign investment to Guyana and for effectively Guyana as a place where business can be done.”