Forestry body stands by its export figures

-Finance Minister still has explaining to do

The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) yesterday stood by its wood products export figures supplied to organisations including the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), doing nothing to defuse the claim made by Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh that the increase in timber export earnings this year was due to “an expansion in plywood exports.”

Singh has come under fire and been accused of disseminating falsehoods as a result of the statement which was made in the official mid-year report on the economy. Singh reported that for the first six months of the year the forestry sector recorded growth of 38.1%, “supported by the introduction of new incentives to harvesters and sustained demand from the construction sector and furniture manufacturing subsector.” This was not explained.

As a consequence, the growth target for the sector has been revised upwards significantly from the budgeted 3.3% to 15% growth for 2014. The report said that timber export earnings rose to US$21.3 million, a 31.3% jump due to an increase in export volume, “reflecting an expansion in plywood exports.”

However, GFC data does not support Singh’s statement that the increase in exports was largely due to an expansion of plywood exports. Information supplied to the ITTO and to the Forest Products Development & Marketing Council (FPDMC) of Guyana Inc by the GFC show that plywood exports for the first half of this year amounted to 1931 cubic metres from 1851 cubic metres for the same period last year, an increase of just 4.3%. These plywood exports were valued at US$973,925.

In contrast, log exports for the first half of this year amounted to 54 376 cubic metres compared to 30 356 cubic metres for the same period last year, an increase of approximately 80%. These log exports were valued at US$8,726,893. Singh has not attempted to explain the gulf between his figures and the GFC’s.

Asked at a press conference to validate their figures yesterday, GFC Head of Planning and Development Division, Pradeepa Bholanauth responded that the “the information supplied to the ITTO as well as the information provided to the Ministry of Finance were accurate.” She said that the data summarized the plywood and veneer production increased by 65 and 71 percent respectively and the total increase in export earnings for the country was by approximately 30% for the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year.

Further pressed on the 80% increase in log exports, Bholanauth said “the exact figure is 79.3%, that’s right.”

Singh’s statements have elicited strong reactions from the political opposition. “He is now disseminating falsehoods and misrepresenting the truth to the Guyanese public,” AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan told Stabroek News on Sunday while saying that Singh must be held to account. “Coming at a time when log exports are a major public issue, the statement by the Minister which understates the scale of log exports does little to reassure an increasingly skeptical public,” chartered accountant and activist Christopher Ram said while APNU’s finance spokesperson Carl Greenidge told Stabroek News that Singh has to explain his statement.

Meantime, GFC commissioner James Singh said that he has not seen the acceptance by APNU MP Joseph Harmon of his invitation to have an open debate on Bai Shan Lin’s logging operations. Harmon has called for a variety of documents to be released before the debate. “I have to review the documents first and when I review it, then I will make a decision as to what we can provide and what we can’t provide,” the GFC head stated.







Latest in Local News

default placeholder

Proposed law bans smoking in public places

Proposed tobacco control legislation will see a ban on smoking in public places while cigarette advertising will no longer be allowed and pictorial and text health warnings will have to be displayed on at least 75% of the packaging on tobacco products.

default placeholder

$800M in specialty hospital steel ‘awarded’ to BK

Government needs to explain why about $800 million worth of steel and other equipment that were earmarked for the now-frozen specialty hospital project, went solely to businessman Brian Tiwarie, former President Donald Ramotar says.

Ezekiel Murray

Truck driver jailed for three years for crash causing child’s death

Clyde Barker, the truck driver who was accused of running over 12-year-old Ezekiel Murray along the Friendship Public Road last year and causing his death, was yesterday sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.

default placeholder

Businessman jailed and fined over gun, ammo possession

A businessman was yesterday sentenced to two years imprisonment and fined $100,000 after being found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

default placeholder

Business minister ‘in denial’ over economic ‘crisis’

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said that Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin is in denial about Guyana not being in an economic crisis.

Kevin Joshua

Man found guilty of disfiguring teen in acid attack

Kevin Joshua, who doused a schoolboy with acid and left him disfigured, was on Tuesday found guilty by a jury of inflicting grievous bodily harm on the youth.

default placeholder

Conflicting evidence by police sees man freed of gun, ammo charge

Accused earlier this year of having in his possession a .32 firearm and matching rounds Mark Calvan was yesterday found not guilty.

default placeholder

Judge unable to hand down sentences due to probation report delays

The absence of probation reports prevented Justice Brassington Reynolds from handing down sentences in two cases at the Berbice Assizes on Tuesday.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: