Minister of Business opening address of the Business Exposition 2015

business expo



It is my pleasure, on behalf of the Ministry of Business to welcome you to Business Expo 2015 which is a collaboration between the Ministry of Business and the Guyana Manufacturer’s and Services Association.
I would like to briefly share with you the thinking behind Business Expo 2015.  Most of you would be aware there is an annual event called GuyExpo which takes place around September every year right here in our National Exhibition Center.
With the change in Government in May of this year there was not enough time to bring this event off in September. It was also suggested that next year being the 50th anniversary of Guyana’s independence, we should consider holding a special grand GuyExpo around the time of independence.
Out of this arose the decision to defer GuyExpo to May 2016.  In making this decision we were aware that there are many small businesses who depend on GuyExpo each year to showcase their products and services, and to boost their incomes.
It so happened that around the same time we were having discussions with the Guyana Manufacturers and Services  Association  and they had expressed an interest in GuyExpo and that is when we decided to explore the concept of an Expo event that could replace the deferred GuyExpo so that those small businesses would not be deprived of an opportunity to exhibit and to earn as they have done in previous years.
In doing this we found that there was a lot of like mindedness in the room when it came to what this event should be about. It was agreed that it should have a business development focus rather than an entertainment focus. This doesn’t mean that it won’t have some flavor. We also wanted to direct the attention to small businesses. The organizing committee was then tasked with arranging this event and tonight we are all here opening Business Expo 2015 under the theme Guyanese Products and Services- Our Gateway to the Good Life.
But Business Expo is more than just a one off event. It is a targeted measure that addresses two of the Ministry of Business’ five main goals around which our 5-year strategic plan is crafted. Those goals are:
  1. Support the development and the exports of value-added industries and
  2. Increase the economic opportunities and capabilities of vulnerable groups.
This event presents a real opportunity for small businesses to have access to a volume of customers over a three-day period that they may not ordinarily encounter in an entire year of business, and this allows them to showcase and to sell products and to get valuable feedback that can be used to improve these products.
And for many small businesses that really can’t afford to advertise and have to rely on word-of-mouth recommendations to expand their customer base, Business Expo provides an opportunity to get the word out about their businesses. And of course there’s free media coverage here that they can take advantage of over the next two days.
Business Expo also includes a number of business related workshops in areas such as procurement procedures, tender board procedures,  digitizing businesses and financing for businesses.
I was very happy to see the quality of exhibits and types of services being promoted here today. The vast majority are small businesses and their diversity is encouraging.
We would like to explore the further development of this event to see whether it can become an effective measure in encouraging broader participation in profitable economic activities.
Access to our country’s economic space must be available to all Guyanese regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or which region or community you belong to. Vulnerable sections our population must not be shut out of economic opportunities.
As I mentioned we are happy to be partnering with the GM&SA on Business Expo. It is important that Guyana should have a vibrant, independent, innovative and competitive private sector that can partner with government and other stakeholders through an on-going structured engagement on matters related to this country’s economic development.
Our government is committed to partnering with a progressive private sector in building a strong and sustainable economy.  To this extent also, no one should be shut out.
Guyana has become a challenging place to do business and this of course is reflected in our rankings in the annual World Bank Ease of doing business reports.
The most recent report, which was released last month, saw Guyana slide even further down the rankings to 137 out of the 189 countries surveyed. The areas in which Guyana was ranked lowest were access to credit and getting electricity.
To address this these issues directly the Ministry of Business will soon be engaging stakeholders in the electricity sector to explore options for making it easier for businesses to get access to electricity.
Also we will be supporting legislative amendments designed to improve the transfer of information from credit providers to credit bureau operators to strengthen the lending process which businesses rely on to access financing.
The Ministry of Business will continue to identify areas where the ease of doing business in Guyana needs to be improved and implement or recommend measures for improvements.
I’d like to mention also that Guyana, through GO-Invest is currently hosting the annual general meeting of the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies and some of our regional counterparts in the field of investment promotion are here with us this evening and I’d like to give them a big welcome to Business Expo.
The CAIPA annual meeting is an important forum and Guyana is proud to be hosting it this year. The decisions emanating from their discussions will contribute to the shaping of our own economy and the Regional Investment Promotion Strategy provides a strong supporting framework through which our own investment promotion agency, GO-Invest can redouble its efforts to bring more Foreign Direct Investment into our economy.
In explaining the nature of Business Expo and the thinking behind it, I think I may have breezed over the part where the organizing committee was tasked with arranging this event.
There are some people I need to thank. I want to thank them for organizing the publicity, the security, the tickets, the shirts, the letters, the phone calls, the e-mails, the accounting, the preparation of the venue and the coordination of this opening night.
So to all the members of the organizing committee and all the persons who executed and implemented to get things ready I say a very big thank you. And to our sponsors who provided the much needed support that events like this one require, I thank you for responding the way you did.
Before I close, I had mentioned the quality of some of the exhibits that I saw earlier in the day during a walk-about. Quality products and quality services are what will make this a quality event. Creating an environment in which that quality can continuously improve is a priority for the Ministry of Business and I’d like to thank every single exhibitor for being part of Business Expo and contributing to the success of this event. I thank you for your attention.