According to SN (Dec 1) it is reported that thieves have stolen 70 bars of gold estimated to be worth US$11.5 million ($2.3 billion) from a fishing boat moored in Curaçao.
Both Minister Robert Persaud and the GGDMA were quick to distance themselves from the Curaçao gold heist, although they did not deny that some gold was being smuggled out of Guyana. However, the authorities seem smugly content to do very little, except to rely on their overworked ploy to investigate, and to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards the smuggling of Guyana’s gold.
It is claimed that the six robbers knew their way around the fishing boat and they went directly for the three metal boxes containing the gold bars. This would imply that boat was a regular visitor to Curaçao with gold shipments. It was only after the robbers in Curaçao had struck, that the authorities were left with egg on their faces and a dilemma about who was robbing whom.
But there has been a consistent lack of full disclosure and proper accountability by the inept authorities and their abysmal failure to report to the country’s electorate. The hidden, parallel economy is allowed to bloom and become dominant, with claims that it might be greater than the legal, open economy in the country. This would mean that the level of illegal income being generated is astronomical. It is the hard-pressed citizen who would continue to suffer and to bear the burden as the revenue authority demands even more payment of oppressive taxes from them.
According to the Jamaica Gleaner of Jan 18, 2012, Minister Robert Persaud disclosed that gold production last year was recorded at 363,083 ounces, approximately 14 per cent above the projected 320,000 ounces. He went on to disclose, “Stakeholders will tell you that perhaps gold production might be in the range of 600,000 ounces… and noting that gold prices are expected to reach close to US$2,000 per ounce by the end of the year.”
The Minister glibly admitted “that while this is very significant, it does not fully reflect true production.” He lays blame at the door of other game players to claim, “We can have the most robust system but … if you have players within the sector itself that are encouraging and supporting the violations, then it will not be effective.”
The Minister has failed to grasp the gravity and full impact of illegal gold production as it affects the country. The discrepancy between declared gold production of 363,083 ounces last year, against stakeholders’ expected production of 600,000 ounces is irresponsible and without comprehension. This confirms the level of the true loss of revenue from the sector that is not being accounted for by the government. The Minister seems to regard his role as just a game player when it comes to protecting the country’s valuable natural resources, and preventing the huge loss of revenue in the country. The future of the country’s citizens should not be treated as a simple game, and if the Minister cannot deliver on his duties and responsibilities to the electorate he should consider resigning.
The IMF has also raised issues on transparency in Guyana concerning the extractive industry and for its operations to be seen as legally compliant. The knock-on effect of full transparency could pre-empt reductions in the burden of corruption, lawlessness and inequity. The additional revenue could also go towards improvement in education and employment and to rebuild a dilapidated and neglected infrastructure including transport, services and communications, etc. There should be no room for politicians to pursue their own selfish and short-sighted gains and to deny of the country its true revenue earnings.