The Guyana Manufactur-ing and Services Associa-tion (GMSA) will be moving for access to the agreements under which all foreign investors are permitted to operate in Guyana’s forestry sector, in order to ensure they are operating within agreed parameters, president of the group Clinton Williams said on Thursday.
Williams said the GMSA would be sending its request for the agreements to the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), in light of concerns about the large scale exports of logs by Bai Shan Lin and Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc (VHPI) with little benefit to the country. He noted the claims made against Bai Shan Lin in every edition of Kaieteur News this week as well as an article on the operations of VHPI in Thursday’s edition of the Stabroek News.
The GMSA, Williams explained, met on Wednesday to “look at (all) Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the forestry sector” and to discuss possible infractions and violations on the part of said investors. He, however, said that the GMSA does not know the requirements in the agreements/contracts under which companies such as Bai Shan Lin and Vaitarna are allowed by government to extract and export logs.
GMSA’s board, he continued, has therefore asked him to request the necessary documents for perusal. Williams could not say exactly when the correspondence will be sent but he is hoping for a response by next week once it is sent.
If it is found that any company is violating the terms of its agreement, he promised that GMSA will advocate for a correction of the situation. The GMSA has no powers to take action so it will be left to the GFC to confront any delinquent company.
President of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Ramesh Persaud also could not comment on the legality of lack thereof of the activities of Bai Shan Lin or Vaitarna as neither he nor the commission is familiar with the details of the agreements/contracts they entered into with government. He, however, pointed out that the GMSA is taking the lead in confronting the matter and that the PSC will be offering support in whatever way it can or is required.
Processing plants and value added
On Wednesday, Stabroek News reported that Vaitarna continues to export large quantities of logs despite failing to set up a wood processing facility as per the agreements which facilitated the commencement of its operations. In January of this year, Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud told this newspaper that the Vaitarna would start construction of a processing facility in the first quarter of this year, after which processing could begin within six or eight months.
However, though the company cleared land with the intent of setting up the facility and despite assurances by Persaud that the company is in an “advanced” stage of setting up such a facility, no construction has started.
In 2011, Persaud had said that there would be no large scale exportation of logs by the company as it was committed to downstream activities – processing. “VHPI is not here as a logging company but will be involved in value added,” the minister had said.
He had also said that the GFC informed him that VHPI’s processing facility is located at the company’s log yard at Wineperu. “The facility is being constructed on an area of approximately 30,000 square feet. The land has been cleared; the surveying and design of the structure is in progress; and construction is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2014,” Persaud explained.
The minister also said that equipment had been purchased to facilitate swift commencement of processing as soon as the facility started operations. However, there was no sight of the plant or the alluded to machinery when Stabroek News visited the area on Tuesday.
What was visible were stockpiles of logs, some of which have obviously been there a while as their markers were faded and ineligible and they were rotting. Neither Williams nor Persaud would comment on the absence of the plant as they say they are not intimate with the agreement and the timelines for such developments therein.
Both men, however, say it is imperative that government take steps to ensure that foreign companies engage in value-added activities as it affords Guyana a host of advantages and ensures the country get optimum compensation for the extraction of its non-renewable resources.