SN reported (‘`Pure hogwash’, Businessman challenges Ramotar on lack of timber value-added processing’, 25 April 2015) remarks on the forest sector by President Ramotar at the GMSA business lunch on 22 April. The President was reported as saying ‘I believe the Chinese market and probably the Indian markets if I am not mistaken, they have a ban on the importation on certain finished wooden products’. It is not clear how such member countries of the World Trade Organization would impose bans contrary to WTO global trade rules, and I suggest that President Ramotar has been wrongly advised. Perhaps the President was thinking about the anti-dumping measures imposed by the USA on Chinese-made bedroom furniture, some of which is made from tropical timbers including from Guyana. The under-pricing of timber logs exported to China, allowed by the Government of Guyana, contributes to the artificially low prices of the Chinese-made furniture, hence the US trade measure.
The super-profits being made by the Asian transnationals in Guyana are generated partly because of the excessively favourable investment arrangements provided to Bai Shan Lin and other companies by the Government of Guyana. As these tax benefits for the Asian transnationals are provided from the taxes of Guyanese, Article 146 of the National Constitution 1980/2003 provides for us to be able to read the full text of these tax and other concessions. President Ramotar’s PPP/C’s recently-issued election manifesto refers to ‘the rights and freedoms of the individual’ so I look forward to the immediate and full disclosure of the Bai Shan Lin and all other foreign direct investment (FDI) arrangements.
Such disclosures would enable citizens to check the truth of President Ramotar’s claim at the same GMSA event that ‘I have been speaking to our finance people to ensure there is a level playing field’ for investors. GMSA members pointed out to the President that this was not true, that investment incentives publicised by Go-Invest are not equally available and that decisions on incentives are being made non-transparently by (at least) the Guyana Revenue Authority. Such personalised administrative discretion contradicts another aspect of the PPP/C election manifesto – ‘Providing fiscal incentives to MSMEs, especially to encourage investment in the manufacturing sector’.
In addition to revising the anti-Guyanese discriminatory clauses in the FDI arrangements for Chinese transnationals, President Ramotar, his ‘technical team’ and Go-Invest could copy normal practice in other countries by ensuring that the FDI wording accords with the long-established OECD Guide-lines for Multi-national Enterprises (latest edition 2011, http://www.oecd. org/daf/inv/mne/48004323.pdf) and the OECD Transfer Pricing Guide-lines (latest edition 2010, http://www.ibfd.org/IBFD-Products/OECD-Transfer-Pricing-Guidelines-Multinational-Enterprises-and-Tax-Administra-tions). For forest sector enterprises, President Ramotar and Go-Invest should also have noted that Bai Shan Lin, although a partly State-Owned-Enterprise of the Beijing Government, does not comply with either of the guidelines produced by the State Forestry Admin-istration and Ministry of Commerce in Beijing: ‘Guide in sustainable overseas forest management and utilization by Chinese enterprises’ (2009, http:/// www.forestry.gov.cn/portal/main/s/224/content-401396.html) and ‘Guide-lines for overseas sustainable forest products trade and investment by Chinese enterprises’ (2014, http:// www.forest-trends. org/documents/files/doc_4377.pdf and http:// www.illegal-logging.info/sites/files/ chlogging/EIA-Comments-on-China-Guidelines-July-2014-English_Final.pdf), or with the Chinese State Forest Administration’s ‘Guide on supply chain due diligence for companies trading, importing, processing, transporting or manufacturing forest products’ (2014, https://www.globalwitness.org/sites/default/files/library/Global%20Witness%20due%20diligence%20guidelines%20for%20Chinese%20companies_%20forest%20products.pdf). Bai Shan Lin also does not comply with the ‘Guidelines for environmental protection in foreign investment and cooperation’ of the Ministries of Commerce and Environmental Protection in Beijing (2013, http://english.mofcom. gov.cn/article/policyrelease/bbb/201303/20130300043226.shtml). As Bai Shan Lin claims to hold mining concessions for land and river dredging from GGMC, surely BSL also ought to be obliged to comply with the ‘Guidelines for mineral companies operating in foreign lands’ from the China Chamber of Commerce for Mining, Metals and Chemicals, a government-affiliated body (Stabroek News, 26 October 2014).
The above-cited promises from the recently-issued PPP/C manifesto have been made in previous manifestos, and have not been fulfilled. Would President Ramotar demonstrate good faith by putting these prior promises into action before the general election on 11 May? Or would the outgoing President prefer to be remembered as the Hogwash Man?