…as Guyana’s trade and investment showpiece

Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin

GUYEXPO’s protracted reign as the standard bearer for expanding exports and attracting investments into Guyana could come to an end later this year with the staging of the first offering of a new initiative, the Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GUYTIE) from September 19-22.

 The announcement on Wednesday at a launch event that the Government of Guyana is being backed by the European Union-funded regional business promotion entity, Caribbean Export and by the local private sector in seeking to launch an initiative to replace a largely failed attempt in GUYEXPO to accelerate the country’s exports will cast the spotlight on the Ministry of Business.

Public discourse as to whether GUYEXPO fitted the bill as the forum that could deliver the environment in which effective export facilitation could thrive has persisted for years and at Wednesday’s launch of GUYTIE at the Marriott Hotel, Business Minister Dominic Gaskin dropped a broad hint that government was not waiting around any longer to find out.

”I have nothing against GUYEXPO but I just don’t think it was delivering the kind of outcomes that we were looking for. We wanted a model that was more focused on matching exhibitors with buyers and promoting exports. GUYEXPO was more of a business-to-consumer event and even though it may have met certain short-term goals it was not addressing the long-term economic agenda of our Government,” Gaskin said.

 Describing the new initiative as “an event that is expected to contribute measurably to increased export earnings in the long-term, Gaskin said that it was also government’s expectation that it would “become self-sustaining after a few years and we expect it to change from a public sector to a private sector initiative once it becomes well established on the regional calendar and can sustain itself financially.

However, in a comment to the Stabroek Business that pointed to government’s appreciation of the emotional appeal that GUYEXPO has created among ordinary Guyanese, Gaskin said that government may consider continuing to stage GUYEXPO, possibly alternating the event with GUYTIE from one year to the next.

Clearly designed to further emphasize government’s push to send as message of better relations between government and the private sector, Wednesday’s event attracted some of the key leaders of the private sector including Private Sector Commission Chairman Edward Boyer and President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Deodat Indar. Additionally, and clearly intended to send a message that GUYTIE had won the backing of the heavy hitters in the private sector, the launch ceremony featured presentations by representatives of several of the country’s key urban businesses including Demerara Distillers Ltd, Guyana Telephone  and Telegraph Company, E-Networks, Banks DIH Ltd, Brass Aluminum and Cast Iron Foundry and the Massy Group of Companies.

Senior Advisor on Competitiveness and Export Promotion with Caribbean Export, Damie Sinanan also spoke at the opening ceremony.  In his address to the event Gaskin told his audience that the decision by the government to collaborate with Caribbean Export and the local private sector had been taken in order to garner the collective expertise to help prepare and promote export-ready businesses. “We need the expertise and guidance of the Caribbean Export Development Agency to do this,” Gaskin said. What the Minister of Business described as “a business-to-business event”,  according to information released by the organizers, is designed to promote packaged local investment opportunities for foreign direct investment and local investment; to prepare and promote export-ready firms for export markets and to highlight Guyana as a destination for business. Exhibitors at GUYTIE are expected to comprise both large multinational firms and small and medium enterprises in the manufacturing and services sectors while the event will target buyers and investors from select target markets in CARICOM, the USA, the European Union and Latin America.

Gaskin, meanwhile, used his brief address to the Wednesday forum to focus on what he said was government’s determination to secure intimate private sector involvement in the GUYTIE event. “We can’t do this without the private sector,” he said.

 The genesis of GUYTIE, Gaskin said, arose out of what he said was “an

informal conversation” with a Caribbean Export representative in 2016.

“I discovered that CaribExport was in a position to assist us, both technically and financially to develop and host an event that focused more on match-making with international buyers. The private sector indicated its willingness to support such an event and a planning committee was formed to bring it to reality,” he said.

Noting that two of the key objectives of the Ministry of Business’s 5-year strategic plan are to “increase sustainable private sector investment and to increase value added production and increase exports”, Gaskin declared that he perceived GUYTIE as being consistent with both objectives. “It is also well aligned with one of our major projects in the area of investment and export promotion, the National Quality Infrastructure project which is concerned with quality standards, economic diversification and trade promotion,” Gaskin said.

And the Business Minister stressed, meanwhile, that the expectation was that participating businesses must benefit through “tangible long-term benefits through interactions with international buyers” as well as “capacity development support to prepare them for trade show participation” beyond the GUYTIE event.

Alluding to his longer-term expectations for GUYTIE, Gaskin said rather than being a “one-off event” the initiative “will be repeated and will be improved on over the long-term.”

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