BY DEVINA SAMAROO AND AHREEFA BACCHUS
ater its one-year hiatus, Guyana’s largest trade fair and exposition returned with a bang, with over 350 booths on display, as celebrations take full swing to usher in the country’s 50th independence anniversary on May 26.
GuyExpo 2016, being observed under the theme “50 years: Guyana Means Business. Promoting Enterprise, Driving Productivity”, started off with the traditional launching ceremony at the Sophia Exhibition Centre, Greater Georgetown.
Looking ahead, the Government envisions GuyExpo developing into an international event, whereby businesses from various territories assemble in one giant trade fair and exposition.
“In order for the event to truly development, it needs to have both local and foreign participation. It needs to
become a much more foreign affair; that is, it must attract foreign exhibitors and it must attract foreign buyers. Guyana means business will have to be embodied in Guyana in the coming years and this event must become the launchpad for businesses seeking access to both local and foreign markets,” Business Minister Dominic Gaskin remarked during his presentation.
Recognising that Guyana has been unsuccessful in developing its value-added industries, Gaskin encouraged investors to refocus their efforts to ensure value is added to raw materials being exported.
He acknowledged that there are a number of factors that discourage manufacturing in Guyana, not least of which are the high energy cost and lack of a skilled workforce.
“This means to me, if left to its own devices, our local manufacturing sector is unlikely to change its course,” he noted, urging the Private Sector to work with the Government to develop the manufacturing industry.
President of the Georgetown Chambers of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Vishnu Doerga, during his brief opening remarks, emphasised that Guyana is overwhelmed with tremendous business potential, eagerly waiting to be touched.
“The expectations are many, the potential is more than evident, the path is clear. It is time to demonstrate in actions more than in words that Guyana truly means business,” Doerga declared, noting that countless business opportunities are available in the country, but it just needs to right environment to stimulate startup and sustain growth.
In this regard, he stressed that the spirit of entrepreneurship should be more widely promoted, especially in schools. “Entrepreneurship must become a catalyst for job growth. Students must leave the education system with knowledge of turning ideas into reality,” he stated.
Doerga also noted that the Private Sector needs to diversify into other industries such as the telecommunication sector, the Information and Communication Technology sector (ICT) as well as the creative industries – all areas which have to potential to drastically reduce the unemployment rate.
The GGCI President also mentioned that the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) needs to function as intended in order for business to blossom.
“The CSME needs to allow promised access to [Caribbean Community] Caricom markets, access devoid of unnecessary barriers,” he noted.
Speaking to the Government, the Private Sector representative underscored the need for a more level playing field of doing business in Guyana and urged the current Administration to act with urgency in ensuring this prevails.
He also noted that tax regimes should stimulate rather than stifle Private Sector growth.
President David Granger, during his feature address, reiterated the importance of a green economy in the development of the business sector.
“A green economy is necessary for ensuring the sustainable management of our natural resources and our assets… it is also needed to wean this country off of its addiction to fossil fuels,” he stated.
The President noted that it is his mission to build a green economy, and that moves are afoot to rapidly accelerate the transition towards having cleaner and cheaper sources of energy.
He said over the next five years, his Government will ensure huge investments are made in the development of wind, solar and hydro energy.
The President said his Government will also explore the possibility of offering incentives to encourage investments in renewable energy.
Large corporations dominate small enterprises
300 booths were on display from approximately 250 participants but disheartening to say, large corporations once again dominated the scene.
Contrary to previous years however, the number of participating small enterprises diminished.
Thursday evening’s launch saw a limited number of small businesses participating, while the large-scale enterprises dominated the Sophia Exhibition Centre. In previous years, small businesses took the opportunity to showcase their products, including locally made sauces and well as fruits and vegetables at the exhibition; however, this year it was noted that there was a limited number of small businesses participating.
The larger booths expressed their optimism at being able to showcase their products to Guyanese at the expo, as it is a means of attracting a larger customer base.
Communications Manager of Digicel Guyana, Vidya Sanichara explained that thus far they have had an encouraging response from visitors, and she encouraged persons to visit the booths to take advantage of the many promotions being offered. “We’re always at Guyexpo and we always anticipate a big crowd. We’re surprised to have such a huge crowd at the expo despite the weather. As you know, we recently launched our 4G service and that is what we’re pushing tonight,” she stated adding that they have a number of data plans and handsets at affordable prices available.
The Marketing Director of GTT also shared similar sentiments as he encouraged persons to visit the booth. “At GTT there’s a lot of things going on and we have a lot of specials for all of our customers. As you all know we launched our 4G and we are proud of it as the fastest 4G in Guyana. We have a big stand with a lot of phone specials,” he explained.
Meanwhile, a Marketing Representative of Roraima Airways explained that they have special packages available to visitors of their booth at the expo. “We know you have a lot of relatives coming in as well as those already here. We have aerial tours being offered for just $4200 and that’s the lowest you’re going to get it for a city tour of Guyana,” she stated.
New Guyana Pharmaceutical Company Pharmacist Olivia Brown also took the opportunity to encourage visitors to trust the Company for all their pharmaceutical needs.