The curtains came down on the first ever Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GuyTIE) at the Marriott Hotel in Kingston on Saturday but the outcome of the event intended to provide some indication of the competitiveness of the goods and services being offered here will have to await an assessment that goes beyond the speculative outcomes being proffered at this stage.
The official expectation is that the joint public/private sector-sponsored event would have yielded much more than had been provided over the years by the annual GuyExpo event; that at least appeared to be the expectation of the organizers. And while there was a distinct air of business and bustle over the three days of product display and business-to-business meetings between the visiting buyers and the local business houses, the absence of a sustained flow of information regarding those exchanges that yielded firm agreements made it difficult to arrive at a reliable evaluation of the outcome.
What was evident based on the chatter that ensued among participants in the event over the period was that the more than sixty overseas public and private sector enterprises that came to Georgetown for GuyTIE were brought here, perhaps more out of the longer term business prospects that repose in the prospects of Guyana’s attainment of the status of an ‘oil economy’ than hopes of any immediate trading breakthrough. Indeed, up to the middle of this week the Ministry of Business, the state entity responsible for staging the GuyTIE event was offering little by way of assessment of the final outcome beyond the promise of an initial release in the course of the week and a subsequent fuller report once all the pieces had been pulled together.
In matters like the eliciting of reliable information regarding the outcomes of events such as GuyTIE, state agencies have, over the years proven to be notoriously unreliable so that any immediate-term assessment of the prospects that GuyTIE might hold for the future of goods and services produced in Guyana would have had to be discerned by painstakingly ‘walking the floor’ of the Marriott Hotel over the period of the exhibition and keeping an ear out for the outcomes of the business-to-business exchanges.
A few disclosures did materialize (though not nearly enough to enable an overall assessment) including a seemingly serious expression of interest by the Cuban company, Pharma Cuba in marketing its line of pharmaceutical products here. More, perhaps, might have been expected from the presence at GuyTIE of the South Korean state-run trade
promotion entity KOTRA though an interview with the Stabroek Business yielded no more than a revelation that the presence in Georgetown of KOTRA’a two-member delegation centred primarily around interfacing with as many public and private sector entities as possible in the process of promoting more than a dozen Korean companies offering a range of goods and services.
There was little to be gleaned – at least at this stage from conversations with local firms that participated in the event though in the instances of the baking products suppliers, NAMILCO and the slumber comfort entity Comfort Sleep information was gleaned on business-to-business contacts that yielded – in the instance of NAMILCO – interest by regional companies in some of its range of products and in the instance of Comfort Sleep interest by a supplier in providing the firm with raw materials.
What was perhaps missing from the event was the sort of ‘running commentary’ from local organizers, including state officials on key events that were happening over the period of GuyTIE. Perhaps the state agency official who maintained the highest profile during the event was the Chief Executive Officer of the Small Business Bureau, Dr. Lowell Porter who never seemed to be too far away from the area housing the product displays by eight of the Bureau’s women clients. On the final day he was observing the crowds that had found their way to the displays. He had told the Stabroek Business in an earlier interview that the involvement of eight women-run small businesses in GuyTIE had arisen out of a robust lobby by the Bureau and on the final day he was insisting to the Stabroek Business that the effort to get them there was more than worth the while.
By the end of the four-day event a delegation from the visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines state agency responsible for small business development had extended an invitation to six of the eight women to attend the October 23-26 Vincy Expo. The Vincentian authorities have also extended an invitation to Dr. Porter himself to attend and address a small business forum associated with the Expo.
Meanwhile, Princess Cosbert, one of the eight women who staged a product display at the GUYTIE event has been invited by a Canadian buyer to visit Canada at the buyer’s expense to promote the range of herbal teas which she has already marketed with a fair degree of success in Guyana.
South American Cocoa’s Lois Rickford reported that discourse between herself and a Trinidad and Tobago company which she declined to name had proceeded as far as “discussing prices,” the company having expressed a serious interest in purchasing her coconut oil.
What particularly pleased the Bureau’s boss was that amidst the hurly burly of the Business-to- Business meetings and the more elaborate product displays, visitors to GuyTIE had taken the trouble to seek out the SBB’s clients and in some instances to demonstrate more than a passing interest in what they had to offer. The prospects for these enterprises arising out of GUYTIE would appear to repose in possible collaboration with external private sector entities in pursuit of product development and marketing goals. What they all already have in common is an abundance of creativity, a recognition of the need to incrementally improve their product quality and a sense of confidence about the quality of their product. At GuyTIE, their modest product displays matched many of the more imposing ones for attractiveness and the women themselves appeared to have decided that for them the event would be much more than an outing. Craft, cosmetics and condiments are the sub-sectors in which these women excel and Porter believes that their job-creation potential makes them every inch as significant in the Guyana economy as the larger manufacturing entities.
Other somewhat larger but relatively little-known businesses had also set out their stalls at GuyTIE. There was the 24-year–old Mohammed’s Farm situated at Garden of Eden, arguably as modern and impressive a poultry enterprise as any in the region and still seeking to expand, locally, whilst simultaneously looking in the direction of the regional and international markets. There was, as well, PSKL Engineering Designs, a father and son team with ‘Trini’ connections, about to put multi-million dollar roots here and to offer a range of services in the construction sector.
When Stabroek Business spoke with the Ministry of Business earlier this week an official offered assurances that a comprehensive report on the event and its outcomes was due this week and that a fuller assessment of the outcomes of event would come later.