I read with great interest a media report about Finance Minister Winston Jordan declaring to China that Guyana is open for business.
Minister Jordan did a good job promoting Guyana to the China while addressing the Ninth International and Infrastructure Forum in Macao. It is simple to understand why Minister Jordan is pushing to do business with what is probably the biggest investor nation in the world, but Guyana has to take note of the track record of some of China’s business people and the way they do business and make use of other nations’ resources.
Make no mistake: I admire China for its brilliant minds and vast contribution to humanity’s knowledge. The Chinese have proven themselves as inventors, traders, scientists, medical researchers and doctors.
China is an industrious nation deserving of high acclaim, but I am disappointed with the haphazard way the Chinese handled the construction of the Rupert Craig Highway, which has inconvenienced many people. While I expect inconveniences when major road-works are done, the contractors of this project do not extend the basic courtesy of informing affected people of impending inconveniences.
If the Chinese can plan, coordinate and execute a project of the magnitude of the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, why can’t they execute their undertakings in Third World Countries properly, particularly Guyana?
Yes, it would be wonderful to have Chinese investors here. But we have to guard against certain negative effects, which I feel compelled to highlight because I love my country and want to protect it and ensure it gets everything it deserves.
It is common knowledge that the people of China consume every creature that walks, crawls, swims or flies. Left unchecked, this voracious appetite can endanger certain animal species.
Greenpeace states that only 3.34 percent of China’s forests remain intact. The organisation also maintains that Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong are driving forces in the destruction of forests in other parts of the world.
China, the second largest importer of wood products, cannot meet its huge domestic demand for wood because it has destroyed almost all of its trees. Therefore, the Chinese try to meet this growing demand by plundering the forest resources of other countries.
Let us not forget the record in Guyana of the Chinese company Bai Shan Lin, which has been accused of many corrupt practices. There were reports in the media of how they raped our forests. In my view, and as reported by the media, they did so with the protection of powerful people. We cannot let this happen again.
They affected every form of local business, including transportation and hardware stores and industries when they started using their duty-free concession to venture into other businesses, including the delivery of hardware items on the road and on trucks, thereby affecting local commerce.
2. Some Chinese businesses have a reputation of penetrating Governments.
It was widely reported that Bai Shan Lin managed to get powerful politicians to orchestrate the release of vehicles seized by the Guyana Revenue Authority. Although Bai Shan Lin raked in big profits from ‘sweetheart deals’, the company failed to fulfill its end of the bargain and Guyana never got any value-added benefits from the company’s operations here.
The Government of China has strict rules against corruption and even administers the death penalty to corrupt officials in its country. So we know China as a nation has zero tolerance for corrupt practices. I remember that China executed two persons in 2009 for the toxic milk scandal, which reflected badly on their country. We therefore know that China’s Government has a dim view of corruption. However, some of its business people are not as ethical.
3. As my beautiful country woos Chinese contractors, there are questions about Chinese investors and the payment of taxes.
The GRA therefore needs to do an investigation on the Chinese industries and business to ensure that everything is above board, just as they target local businesses.
4. I have observed that the Chinese here like to receive and make cash payments so that their transactions cannot be tracked easily or are untraceable. Many do avoid using the banking system.
This cannot be allowed to happen in our country. The financial institutions responsible for tracking money laundering need to take note of this and do something. Guyanese individuals and business people should not be the only ones they target.
By making these points, I am not being discriminatory in any way. I am simply giving fair warning, based on evidence that is readily available online and elsewhere, that the record of Chinese investments worldwide strongly suggests that they must be handled with care or Guyana might end up with the short end of the stick.
Yes, we don’t have the kind of contractors necessary for certain projects and it is good we are open to business with the Chinese. But we should also be open to business with the Europeans, the Canadians, the Americans and others.
Let us remember the lessons that Guyana and other countries have learnt and take the necessary care and precautions in the way we deal with all foreign investors.
Roshan Khan Snr.