Staged with much aplomb at the prestigious Marriott Hotel as a joint public/private sector initiative in collaboration with the Caribbean Export Development Agency, the September 19-22 Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GuyTIE) was envisaged as a Business to Business forum, “a platform for local export-ready businesses to engage foreign buyers and other potential partners.”
Specifically, its objectives, according to the organizers, were to “promote packaged 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. The event, the organizers added, would target participants ranging from large multinational firms to SMEs in both the goods and services sector, throwing them together with overseas buyers and investors from select target markets in the region as well as in the United States, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
With Guyana still deficient in the capabilities associated with the planning and execution of events of this nature there was, arguably, never the expectation that GuyTIE would accomplish all of its goals, though, perhaps, observers were prepared to accept an initiative that could boast the kinds of outcomes that would make a persuasive case for a follow-up effort in 2019.
GuyTIE’s disappointment, reposed, arguably, in its failure to attract the ‘heavy hitters’ from Europe, North America and Latin America which the organizers would have hoped for. But that did not make the event a failure. At least the idea of an export promotion push had won the support of the stalwarts in the local private sector whilst the diligence of the Small Business Council had succeeded in preparing a place at the table for a dozen or so small and micro businesses, which, when the promotional opportunities that were opened up to them at the forum are taken account of, meant that they did not come away empty-handed.
By the admission of the public and private sector organizers of the event, GuyTIE had another equally important purpose. It was to undertake an evaluation of the event and to cause that evaluation to be afforded the widest possible circulation in order that we could determine what the event told us about the prospects and possibilities that reposed in the hoped-for external markets, the extent to which bilateral understandings between foreign investors/buyers had been established, perhaps the nature and scope of such agreements as might have been reached and some sort of blueprint for the rolling out of a more ambitious initiative to attract buyers and investors in the period leading up to ‘first oil’ in 2020.
Contextually, it should be recalled that our failure over many years to make available to the relevant publics a structured assessment of GuyExpo, its outcomes, its strengths and its weaknesses had left us in a position where we have never seemed able to determine definitively whether or not it was serving its intended purpose. GuyTIE afforded the ideal opportunity to put all that behind us, to emphatically make the point that we were heading single-mindedly in the direction of upping our game. It hasn’t happened. Close to three months after the end of the event the promised studied evaluation of GuyTIE and more particularly its specific outcomes and its ‘takeaways’ hasn’t materialized. While there has been some passing official comment on the event and on the handful of understandings reached between local producers and potential overseas buyers the kinds of ‘lessons learnt’ and ‘what’s next’ evaluations that puts the event into perspective and affords us the benefit of an evaluation of whether or not it was worth the while in the first place has not been forthcoming. Here, it is not a question of expecting that impressive figures pertaining to a multitude of trading agreements will be trotted out. That was never really an expectation of GuyTIE. The question that a report should seek to answer has to do with where we are at this time, what exactly we need to do to get where we want to go and how we are going to go about getting there. Two and a half months was more than sufficient time to accomplish this and truth be told the reasons that have been proffered for the failure so far to produce a relatively brief, clear and concise evaluation of GuyTIE and its outcomes simply do not ‘wash.’