Since the appalling revelations made by this publication about the destruction of Guyana’s forestry sector by Bai Shan Lin, the political opposition believes that the firm’s abusive actions underscore the need for most if not all foreign companies, particularly Chinese firms, to be subjected to intense routine scrutiny.
One politician posited that it is important to know whether these firms are operating within the boundaries of the law and whether they are abusing their privileges. “If they are found to be doing so, we need to hold them accountable and ensure that their concessionary benefits which they enjoy are taken away.”
Apart from making this assertion, A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Shadow Minster of Finance, Carl Greenidge insisted that the “abusive” behaviour of some foreign companies which are operating on Guyana’s shores, calls attention to the weaknesses of various agencies and ministries.
Greenidge, who also serves as the Chairman of the Economics Services Committee of the Parliament, expressed that apart from conducting these routine checks, foreign companies should also be subjected to detailed background checks.
“There are certain foreign companies which seem to only have one motive, and that is to grab all that it can from Guyana’s soil. Our country is being exploited in several areas and government is not doing much to put controls in place to prevent this.
It is imperative that certain companies, particularly those Chinese investors be subjected to regular examinations.”
We cannot allow these companies to get comfortable and think that they can just abuse our systems without feeling the squeeze. GO-Invest and the relevant ministries need to take responsibility and play their part in this regard,” the politician asserted.
Many financial analysts have opined that a country’s inability to carry out proper screening on the type of companies investing in Guyana and the ‘kind’ of money” being invested in the economy can have dangerous implications.
They believe that it is important to have proper screening on all investment proposals to determine if companies are “high risk” or corrupt. The results of this screening should be one of the requirements before handing out “like candy, tax holidays,” they stressed.
However, CEO of Go-Invest (Guyana office for Investment), Keith Burrowes who is also the acting Chairman, had expressed that the company currently lacks the capacity to conduct a due diligence report on all the investors it sees, thereby making it unable to identify high risk or corrupt companies.
In a previous interview, Burrowes had stated that Go-Invest lacks the necessary resources to even monitor in many cases, how the concessions granted to some of the companies will benefit the country.
Burrowes said, “To check for all these things you need the physical and human resources to do so and we don’t have that. If a company comes from overseas and they want to invest in Guyana, they would first have to bring their financial statements before us and we would investigate, but the truth is, for all the companies coming into Guyana, we don’t have the capacity to identify the high risk companies or the corrupt ones, because these complex things require financial analysts and you can’t do these things with only two or three financial officers. We lack the capacity to carry out the economic analysis on companies to determine what they are really coming with much less to carry out routine checks on the company.”
“However, we are hoping to collaborate with the Credit Bureau, CreditInfo Guyana, in hopes that they would be able to provide information on companies that are registered with them. We currently don’t have a partnership with them. We want to know what is being done also with the concessions being granted and the tax holidays and how the country is really benefitting from this, but this is a technical monitoring process and we don’t have that. We don’t know as well, how we are doing in terms of our contribution to the development of the economy.”
The Chairman had said that it is important for Guyana to understand that while we are looking at areas of deficiencies, GO-Invest is looking to implement a modernization plan.
“We do have a plan to take us forward and once this is done, we will definitely see a major change in the way services are carried out and an overall improvement in several areas.”
With particular reference to Bai Shan Lin, APNU’s Shadow Minister of Public Works, Joseph Harmon is of the opinion that citizens have a right to know what the firm’s programme for reforestation is.
In his capacity as a member of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources, Harmon said, “Based on the evidence which came to the fore by the publication, the response has been overwhelming. The public is very concerned and they want answers. I was written to by several persons who have submitted their questions and they have called on us to make the necessary adjustments to the legislation so that we can hold these companies accountable.”
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