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Stabroek News
July 11, 2002

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A group of business leaders has taken the initiative to publish a list of business profiles of nearly 300 firms in an effort to secure trade and investment. The substantial document titled "First Listing of Business Opportunities With Firms Across Guyana" has been circulated to Chambers of Commerce and business groups in several countries.

At a recent press conference Mr Ramdial Bhookmohan, the Chairman of the Association of Regional Chambers of Commerce of Guyana, said the document allows the business sector to assume responsibility for taking the country directly to the international marketplace. He said the initiative had been taken following remarks made by President Bharrat Jagdeo at last year’s annual luncheon of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce calling on businesses to get directly involved in the promotion of investment. He also referred to the frustration of companies in Brazil and elsewhere that had dealt with earlier trade missions from Guyana which suffered from a lack of commercial data. He said that some participants had been concerned that their business plan profiles remain confidential within Guyana because of the competitive nature of business plans and the experience many had had of having competitors borrow their ideas. Accordingly, the profile of each business is only seen locally by that business and two other persons who did the analyses and profiling. That had helped to reassure participants and would hopefully encourage more to take part in the second edition. The business plans, he said, deal with the need for capital for development and buyer and supplier opportunities based on responses to a questionnaire. They describe the operation of each business and the materials and other items it uses.

Mr John Willems, the President of the Forest Products Association, spoke at the press conference of the difficulties faced by businesses in getting into overseas markets and the need to retool to achieve competitiveness. He referred to the lack of capital locally and the high interest rates charged on bank loans and said the solution was to import capital and make links with foreign investors. He said after some seventy opportunities for investment in the timber sector had been profiled a visiting trade team from Thailand had requested information on firms in the sector. The profiles gave e-mail addresses and other contact information which would facilitate further transactions without the need for middlemen.

This is an excellent project and those involved must be congratulated. The private sector has to start helping itself and taking its own initiatives to promote joint ventures and new investment. It cannot continue to rely on the efforts of government agencies like Go-Invest. There are undoubtedly still attractive areas for investment in Guyana and joint ventures with strategic investors can hold out opportunities for substantial development. Companies, too, can discover cheaper sources of supply for materials they use and new markets for their products.

Mr Derrick Cummings, the administrative officer of the Guyana Manufacturers Association, said that many members could not afford to advertise in foreign markets beyond Caricom. He said there had been a low level of participation by GMA members in the first edition because they had not understood the scope of the project. He noted that this was an opportunity to present the country’s firms as favourably as possible with a view to attracting investment.

It must be hoped that the project will evoke the response it deserves and that many more firms will participate in the second edition.