– brought in over 200 trucks, 60 bulldozers, 40 loaders, luxury vehicles all duty-free
As questions continue to swirl over the arrangements between the Government of Guyana and a Chinese company regarding the export of large quantities of logs, there are revelations now that an unprecedented number of duty free concessions were granted.
These concessions include for luxury vehicles like Lexus’ and even an Infiniti Q model. It did not stop there. Bai Shan Lin, the company in the midst of controversy, was reportedly granted permits that allowed it to also import scores of heavy trucks, bulldozers and loaders.
In terms of the hauler trucks, Bai Shan Lin was able to import more than 200 of them, Kaieteur News was told. This is in addition to more than 50 bulldozers and a significant number of loaders that the company has in its fleet.
While it is not unusual for Government to waive taxes and duties on vehicles, equipment and building materials for certain types of investments, in the case of Bai Shan Lin the questions would be many.
The fleet of equipment that was shipped is mainly what is known as primary processing equipment. In other words, equipment associated with harvesting or logging activities. The number of vehicles brought in would also be unprecedented for one foreign company, industry experts said.
Government had initially not made known what exactly are the arrangements with Bai Shan Lin.
Rather it was the company’s Chairman, Chu Wenze, who made a presentation in November 2012, at the Second World Congress on Timber and Wood Products Trade in Taicang, China.
Those plans were announced even before Guyana knew of it. The country became aware of what was happening only when Bai Shan Lin officials visited Guyana and held discussions with President Donald Ramotar and other Government officials, in January 2013.
Bai Shan Lin is now facing investigations by the Opposition after revelations that it is involved in large-scale logging, even allegedly hiding behind third parties to mask the exports.
There have been questions over the company’s involvement in Guyana with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment appearing in Parliament to answer questions.
The Guyana Forestry Commission, which regulates the industry, has said that Bai Shan Lin has “invested” in a large fleet of skidders, log loaders, bulldozers, logging trucks and generators.
There was no mention of equipment which would be involved in value-added timber products.
Guyana has been vocal in pushing for a phased reduction in log exports but the Bai Shan Lin experience would signal a contradiction.
A look at export figures, unofficially supplied, indicated that for the first half of 2013, some 30,000 cubic meters of timber products were exported. For the first half of 2014, this figure rose to over 50,000 cubic meters.
This would be significant as Guyana has introduced what is known as a disincentive scheme – a gradually increasing tax and royalty scheme. Despite the increase in tax, the exports have shot up.
GFC itself has not explained the rise in the exports but industry insiders said that Bai Shan Lin is playing a major part in this. The deals with Bai Shan Lin were reportedly signed during the period when former President Bharrat Jagdeo was heavily promoting his Low Carbon Development Strategy which among other things targeted increased tracking of illegal logging.
Guyana has a groundbreaking, US$250M five-year agreement with Norway to protect its forests. It is unclear whether Norway and its monitoring agencies have been paying attention to the increasing exports to determine the impacts.
Bai Shan Lin has been granted a large swath of land at Providence and has announced plans to set up what it is called a Guyana-China Timber Industry Economic and Trading Corporation Park plus a 400-acre real estate development.
Commissioner of the Guyana Forestry Commission, James Singh, had said that the company is planning to construct Linden Wood Processing Factory which will be an integrated factory, beginning with log/lumber intake and resulting in the large-scale production of high-end furniture; flooring (parquet, multiple layered, outdoor quality); veneers; doors; mouldings; finger jointing and lumber, among others.
However, he has not given any timelines by which Bai Shan Lin intends to move into the different phases of its operations.
The Bai Shan Lin case would bring the spotlight sharply on how the Government of Guyana negotiates deals with foreign investors and the checks and balances to ensure that its resources are not raped.
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