Whether or not the September 19-22 Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GUYTIE) will be responsive to the particular needs of local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) depends on whether the event is structured in a manner that is responsive to the concerns of the smaller operations in the manufacturing sector, according to a group of eight owners of small business owners with whom the Stabroek Business has spoken over the past two weeks.
“The truth is that we at an event like this we cannot be sure that there will be a place at the table for us,” one member of the group told us even as they each, in turn expressed the view that GUYTIE’s likely preoccupation with putting local “big businesses” together with overseas investors could very well overshadow any serious concern with the key interests of SME’s.
While representatives of the GUYTIE planning committee met recently with the Stabroek Business to provide a briefing on their unfolding plans for the September 19-22, some local small businesses appear inclined to the view that historically, not a great deal in terms of meaningful follow-up usually derives from locally organized trade and investment-related events.
The group with which this newspaper spoke said that while they were prepared to give credit to the public and private sector organizers who had conceptualized GUYTIE, the value of the initiative could only be measured in terms of outcomes.
While the four-day event is labeled a “trade and investment” exhibition representatives of the small businesses with whom this newspaper spoke expressed the view that unless segments of the event focused specifically on how SMEs can secure “practical help” in improving their production and marketing operations, the level of interest in the event amongst those categories of businesses was likely to be minimal. Conversely, they believe that the interests of bigger local businesses in terms of the expansion of their overseas markets is likely to be the main focus of the event “so that the small businesses run the risk of being shut out.”
Discussion between the Stabroek Business and the group of SMEs also focused on whether many small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to fully measure up to the standard of an “export-ready business” which, according to information published by the organizers of the event will be key to them being able to “engage foreign buyers, investors and other potential partners.” What the group is suggesting is that engagements between local SMEs and overseas “potential partners” during the event focus on both one-on-one and group discussions that address possible interest by foreign companies in partnering with SME’s to help move them to an export-ready stage.
Whilst the SME group with which this newspaper spoke lauded the inclusion of sessions on export marketing, pricing, promotion, packaging and participation in trade fairs as relevant to the development of a skills base amongst small business operators they said that where these are not accompanied by policies that afford greater access to capital for investment they were unlikely to make any meaningful impact.
Apart from its undertaking “to prepare and promote export-ready firms for export markets,” GUYTIE has set itself the tasks of promoting “packaged local investment opportunities” for both foreign and local investment and highlighting Guyana as a destination for business. “Large multinational firms” including potential buyers and investors from CARICOM, North America, Latin America and Europe are, the organizers say, among the enterprises expected to be at GUYTIE.
Meanwhile, the group was unanimous in its view that the planning and execution of GUYTIE should be attended by both a periodic update on the progress being made with the planning of the event as well as a post-event report which should be me made public and which should address, specifically, the outcomes insofar as those affect SMEs and which should be available and be given the widest possible circulation no later than two weeks following the conclusion of the event.