Fears that the November time frame provided by the Ministry of Business earlier this year for the resumption of the scrap metal trade, after a hiatus of more than 16 months, may not now be met, could cause relations between the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Scrap Metal Dealers Association (GSMDA) to drift into a zone of acrimony.
On Tuesday, the ministry’s Business Liaison Officer Neilson McKenzie told Stabroek Business that while the end of November remains the target date for the resumption of the trade, there were still hurdles to be crossed before an absolute guarantee could be given. This comes against the backdrop of a sharp statement made to this newspaper by GSMDA Secretary Michael Benjamin last week that the industry “felt betrayed” by the minister’s disclosure to the effect that the Ministry of Business could no longer be certain that the trade will indeed be up and running at the end of November.
What is likely to prove challenging in the context of the ministry’s time line, according to McKenzie, is the creation of the envisaged Scrap Metal Unit for the administration of the trade including the full and final completion of arrangements for recruiting and training staff. McKenzie noted that the recruitment of staff will have to be done through a procedure involving the Public Service Ministry, suggesting that the process could be time-consuming.
Benjamin told this newspaper that the argument about the time needed to recruit and train staff to run the unit was hardly a satisfactory one when account was taken of the fact that the trade has been closed for approximately 16 months, allowing sufficient time for the planned mechanisms to be put in place. “What we find particularly disappointing is the fact there has been no continuous dialogue between ourselves and the ministry that would allow us to know, from one moment to the next, what is happening. The disclosure by the minister that the end of November might no longer be on is a disappointment. It has created an upsetting situation in the sector,” Benjamin said.
He criticized as “ill-informed,” an article appearing in another section of the media asserting that the scrap metal trade had destroyed much of the country’s cultural heritage. The claim in the article that the scrap metal trade had “stolen machines and equipment from industry” is also far-fetched, Benjamin said. Noting that the article also claimed that “scrap metal dealers” stole and destroyed valuable metal rails, was a misrepresentation of the facts, he said. “What the writer clearly does not know is that there is a legitimate scrap metal trade, on the one hand and metal thieves on the other.” Benjamin said the position of the association is that the metal thieves should be prosecuted under the law and made to pay whatever penalty applies.”
Commenting on the likelihood that the trade may remain closed for the remainder of the year, Benjamin said scrap metal dealers and their families are likely to face “another dark December.”