The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) wants government to better position the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to play a more central role in promoting Guyana as a location for foreign investment and as a destination for tourism as part of the push to build the country’s economy.
The GCCI’s view that the Foreign Ministry can do much more to promote the country’s economic interests abroad was made by its President Clinton Urling during a media briefing on Tuesday to launch the chamber’s first ever Competitiveness Manifesto.
The manifesto contains what the chamber says are the 20 key barriers to Guyana’s competitiveness and includes strengthening foreign economic diplomacy. Noting th
at “Guyana’s foreign policy and international relations should be strengthened to become an effective tool in the country’s ongoing economic development and competitiveness programmes,” Urling said the Foreign Ministry was far too “vital and costly a resource” to be excluded from the thrust to take the country’s economy forward.
And according to Urling, the spread of Guyana’s diplomatic missions is probably “in the right regions” though there is no real evidence that the diplomatic service is playing a sustained and active role in promoting the country’s economy abroad. “I expect that some adjustments will have to be made, that there will have to be a recruitment policy that seeks to attract the relevant skills and that the ministry’s Foreign Service Institute will also have to embark on training,” he said.
Earlier efforts to utilise the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a mechanism for attracting investment and promoting local agricultural and manufactured products abroad saw Guyana’s missions in North America, Europe and elsewhere host modest trade fairs and exhibitions and provide supporting services to visiting trade and economic delegations from Georgetown. However, Guyana’s diplomatic missions abroad were never ideally structured to serve as effective extensions of the country’s economic diplomatic initiative.
The recently promulgated GCCI Competitiveness Manifesto advocates that the Foreign Ministry be assigned to pay “primary attention” to the area of “international economic relations to foster the opening of markets to Guyanese products, attracting investments to economic sectors of national interest; improving access to information, science and technology as well as preserving biodiversity and the environment.”
And the manifesto says that the country’s foreign policy should seek to consolidate economic ties with its main trading partners, while diversifying the destination and composition of the country’s exports along with the sources of foreign direct assistance.