The Guyana-China Busin-ess Council (GCBC) recently held a special meeting as a precursor to the impending engagement with APNU+AFC Presi-dent David Granger and says it is eager to continue contributing to the local economy.
Current chairman and founder member, Clinton Williams presided at the meeting held on Thursday May 28, according to a press release from the GCBC. More than 16 companies operating in Guyana attended the meeting, along with representatives from the Chinese Embassy and Chinese Association.
The GCBC said among its priority concerns is the need to engage the new administration on its policies towards investment and trade with China along with those related to security, immigration, taxation, dumping, internet fraud and substandard imported products. While acknowledging some of the challenges that exist, the general consensus was one of optimism that going forward relationships can be strengthened to the mutual benefit of investors and the nation.
Williams said that steps would be taken to establish a security mechanism with the hierarchy of the Guyana Police Force to address security concerns of Chinese entrepreneurs and businesses. The group will also embark on a continuous education campaign to inform Chinese businesses and contractors of their responsibilities with respect to the Laws of Guyana, taxation laws, statutory requirements employments practices and other regulations.
Originally, the GCBC had announced that a meeting was set with President Granger last month. This was later amended and the GCBC said that it would be meeting with Minister of the Presidency Joe Harmon and Minister of Investment Dominic Gaskin. The GCBC later announced that this meeting was postponed.
Observers say that a meeting between the government and the GCBC is likely to be interesting on several grounds. While in opposition, the APNU+AFC alliance had expressed deep reservations over several major projects that Chinese companies have been involved in here.
Prime among these are the forestry company Baishanlin which with its affiliates has also ventured into housing and mining. Separately and together, APNU and the AFC have highlighted local concerns about log exports by Baishanlin without the company living up to its value-added commitments. Numerous questions have also been raised about the transparency of Baishanlin’s operations, its tax concessions and the extent of its involvement in other key sectors of the economy.
Further, the legality of its landlording arrangement with a series of other forest concessionaires has also been queried as the law that would cover this was brought into force long after this arrangement had begun. Logs have still, however, been drawn from various concessions.
During their time in opposition, APNU and AFC, which now make up the current administration, had called for the foreign direct investment contract with Baishanlin to be made public. This was never done.
Also under scrutiny has been the China Harbour and Engineering Corporation (CHEC) which is the contractor for the planned major expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri. Both APNU and the AFC had raised strong reservations about the secrecy surrounding the deal between the former PPP/C government and China for the financing of the deal.
The local business community has also frequently raised concerns about Chinese entrepreneurs setting up in the retail sector and forcing small operators out of business. There have been complaints from the business community that there is not a level playing field as many of the Chinese entrepreneurs do not operate with their overheads.
Concerns have also been raised about a number of Chinese citizens applying for naturalization for the sole reason of participating in the local mining sector or using Guyana as a springboard to migrate north.