Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stella Says…Will this year’s GUYEXPO bring economic change?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 19 September 2006)

It is official folks; GUYEXPO 2006 is going to be held after all. Bravo! The new Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Manniram Prashad, has let the world know that despite rumours to the contrary, the trade fair known for showcasing Guyana’s businesses will be held October 26-31.

I know many people are expecting my sarcastic wit to prevail over any well-deserved praise in regards to the PPP’s many failed attempts to “boost” the nation’s economy. However, since I believe it is important to give credit where credit is due, it would certainly be ignoble of me to ignore the fact that the governing party is on the ball enough to pull off a GUYEXPO so soon after an election.

The GUYEXPO is a great way for businesses around the nation to let the world know they are ready to do business. Of course, if the Jagdeo administration was a bit friendlier with foreign investors and more capable of promoting local businesses to overseas interests, perhaps the GUYEXPO could serve as more than just a big party with the neighbours next door.

Oops, I guess a bit of that sarcastic wit did sneak in after all. I really do think the GUYEXPO is a great idea. However, we must ask what types of financial successes have been birthed from past expositions and what businesses should expect from their participation in this year’s expo?

We know the government will make money since they charge an entrance fee for anyone who wants to attend, yet no one knows what becomes of that revenue when the EXPO is done. However, beyond that, what benefits will those businesses that choose to participate in the GUYEXPO reap from their investment of time and resources?

More specifically, if getting some public exposure from the GUYEXPO in its current state, which does not really incorporate many foreign investors, bolsters a local business, how much more could that business grow if the government knew how to play nice with overseas investors?

I did not major in economics in school - like President Jagdeo – but it seems fairly simply to understand one of Guyana’s major economic issues. This is how I see the problem, if I have a thousand dollars and I have five friends who have a thousand dollars each, we can buy things from each other with our money in exchange for services or products.

If no other money is ever introduced into our little circle, then we will just be passing around that same six thousand dollars over and over again. However, if we let someone from outside our circle do business with us too, then we inject more money into the situation as well as the potential for more business opportunities.

Guyana only has a certain amount of money that passes back and forth between consumers and businesses. However, if the nation introduces more outside investors into the equation, the whole country will reap the benefits of the additional cash flow and job opportunities.

Two years ago at the GUYEXPO, Jagdeo laid out his “economic vision” for the country with “three over-arching principles of my Government’s economic strategy – prudent management of the economy, sustained investment in public services, and support for a modern and vigorous private sector.” Even I know this equation alone does not add up to economic growth.

At last year’s GUYEXPO the President said his “principal strategic economic objective is to generate economic growth and enhanced national competitiveness.” I see two problems in this statement right from the start. Firstly, most businesses in Guyana can only be competitive if they are on the right “team.”

Secondly, economic growth for Guyana is not going to come from national competitiveness. Growth will come from international competitiveness, and this is something from which the Jagdeo administration shies away.

This timidity is understandable to a certain degree since Guyana’s potential for being competitive is weak because of the lack of training in so many vital areas of today’s world economy such as technology.

Which is exactly why the government should focus its first moves toward tangible economic recovery on education and solidifying relationships with outside investors who would gladly train Guyanese workers themselves.

Therefore, while I applaud the new Minister’s haste in being able to host a GUYEXPO during this election year, I think there are far more important issues to which he should be channelling his efforts in these early days of his new post. Or at the very least, I hope he plans to introduce a lot more outside cash into the EXPO this year.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

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