GRA should scrap Bai Shan Lin parking deal

- GHRA

The deal under which the Chinese forestry company Bai Shan Lin is building a car-park for the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) reeks of impropriety and should be terminated, according to the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA).

The disclosure of the deal was made following queries by Stabroek News with the GRA.

In a statement yesterday, the GHRA said that the arrangement along the Lamaha Street embankment is yet another revealing insight into the “ethical confusion” around decision-making in Guyana.

The GHRA said that much of the background to the GRA’s occupancy of its new premises on Camp Street is puzzling.

“What, in the first place, possessed the GRA to rent an apartment building reportedly for some G$10mn. per month that also required G$227mn. to convert into an office block and has no parking space? Given that the building was rented from the NIS, which inherited it as a result of what proved to be reckless investment in the failed Trinidadian financial conglomerate Clico, the answer to that question would seem to involve further murkiness,” the GHRA asserted.

GHRA noted that the parking issue was not an oversight. The GRA had estimated that it required over 500 parking spaces on a daily basis. Furthermore, six months ago the Ministry of Works notified the public that the government had scrapped plans for the GRA to use the Lamaha Reserve as a car park.

“Which gives rise to a second question. In one of his statements the Commissioner claims that Bai Shan Lin was building the car-park for GRA, as if GRA still had a lien on the Reserve. Later it seemed as if GRA were renting the space from Bai Shan Lin. What is the background to the decisions both with respect to the GRA and the renting of the Reserve to private businessmen and who exactly are they to be so privileged?” the GHRA queried.

The GHRA posed the third question, “What provoked the current solution, namely returning to the Lamaha Reserve as clients of a Chinese conglomerate, six months after it seems to have been on offer to GRA directly?”

In trying to decipher answers by sifting through GRA Commission-General Khurshid Sattaur’s various and varying statements about the exact nature of the deal between the GRA and Bai Shan Lin, the GHRA said that it is clear that the GRA was benefiting in some shape or form from Bai Shan Lin in a manner that went beyond a normal commercial arrangement.

“References to being ‘good corporate citizens’ and ‘giving back for the benefits they received for their investments’ all point in this direction.

“Bai Shan Lin, in the short time they have been operating in Guyana, have shown themselves to be anything but good corporate citizens in Region 10, and it is disturbing to learn they are expanding their interests into construction. This company left Suriname under questionable circumstances. The environmental record of Chinese companies globally is appalling. Yet, despite knowing all of this, BSL has put together a one million hectare timber and mining concession in an area only accessible by a road the company itself is now constructing. Rather than cozying up to companies of this nature, the GRA should be keeping them at arms’ length and under strict surveillance,” GHRA asserted.

If the GRA was actually the victim of pressure of one kind or another with respect to the fiasco surrounding their new building and car-park, the GHRA stated that the Commissioner would do a considerable public service by making clear the true state of affairs.

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