Why is the GFC not monitoring the export of high-value logs by Asian companies

Dear Editor

Full marks to Kaieteur News whose front-page photograph of a convoy of containers of logs bound for China eloquently conveyed more than a thousand words could (‘Bai Shan Lin circumvents Guyana’s logging laws…Ships Billions $$$$ of high priced logs monthly,’ August 7.

That newspaper’s interpretation was that the Asian loggers have now so thoroughly corrupted the system that the Asians are effectively exempt from legal controls on forest harvesting and export but at the same time are allowed to claim substantial foreign direct investment (FDI) tax concessions.

That interpretation is supported by the more than 10 per cent increase in roundwood-equivalent volume produced in 2013 compared with 2012. This is also an increase of more than 10 per cent above the baseline production limit (average of years 2003-2008) agreed for the Norway-Guyana MoU.

There are no functioning controls on the import and use of Asian-origin workers by the Asian loggers, and no requirements to train or employ Guyanese. Barama continually declares that it is making no profits which are taxable in Guyana, and it is probable that the other Asian loggers are similar tax-avoiders.

GFC keeps away from the Asian loggers but harasses and penalises the Guyanese chainsaw operators and small loggers’ associations, including Amerindians – as revealed by the GFC annual reports 2005-2012 delivered to the National Assembly in November 2013.

Norway and other donors are currently paying the GFC “in the region of US$500,000 per year” for Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) work on forest carbon assessment, on top of the US$3 million received by GFC for MRV to date (see: 2013 Report of LTS International, Ecometrica, Indufor Oy, and Chr. Michelsen Institute. ‘Real-Time Evaluation of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative. Contribution to Measurement, Reporting and Verification,’ pages 47 and 57).

The question Guyanese could well be asking is, why is the GFC not monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV-ing) the haemorrhage of high-value logs by Bai Shan Lin, and the other Asian log traders with none of the local processing and in-country value-addition required by parliament-approved national policy?

None of the Norway-commissioned auditors appears to notice the volume of analysis and comment on the (mis)management of natural resources, such as the giveaway/firesale of Guyana’s logs, published frequently in the independent press.

Meanwhile Bai Shan Lin and the rest of the Asian loggers rightly hold all Guyanese in contempt for not valuing our national patrimony while the logging of natural forest has been considerably restricted in China since 1998. The Asian loggers merrily carry on log exporting, while the GFC is MRV-ing and people in the ministries, the GRA and other government agencies look the other way.

 Yours faithfully,

Janette Bulkan

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