GFC says ask GRA; GRA refers questions to GO-Invest; GO-Invest has no applications
Questions are continuing over hundreds of vehicles and scores of heavy duty equipment shipped in by an under-fire
Chinese logging firm, but little answers have been forthcoming about who gave the okay.
The vehicles, which included luxury rides like the high-end Lexus and an Infiniti Q series Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), reportedly came into the country over the last few years. This is before the business plans of the Chinese company, Bai Shan Lin, had even been approved for two forest concessions.
The applications are still pending.
Commissioner James Singh of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) during a press conference on Monday referred all questions regarding duty free concessions for vehicles and pertaining to that company to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
Based on questions sent Tuesday, GRA’s Commissioner General Khurshid General yesterday said that regulations bar his agency from divulging details of transactions to the public.
He insisted that GRA would only transact business based on paper work properly submitted that authorizes the granting of the duty free concessions.
In the case of duty free concessions in this case, GRA would have acted only if the necessary paper-work recommending the concessions were forwarded by agencies like the Guyana Office For Investment (GO-Invest).
Bai Shan Lin in one of its many paid advertisements recently in Kaieteur News and Stabroek News to defend its operations in Guyana, said that in 2008, it applied to the “Government of Guyana through the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) and other agencies to lease lands to set up a factory to process logs and engage in value added production, such as the making of furniture, craft and hard wood flooring.”
Since issuing this statement, several opposition members have said that GO-Invest should
publically state its role with the said company and why it has failed as the government’s main investment agency to monitor how Guyana is benefitting from the deals struck with the company and the government.
When contacted earlier this week, Keith Burrowes, CEO of GO-invest, declined to release any information.
Burrowes told this publication, “I prefer not to comment on your questions on Bai Shan Lin and considering that only recently I was appointed the CEO of this company, I can assure that I will look into it.”
However, after being apprised of these comments, some opposition members said that the CEO’s response only leaves one to wonder as to why he could not answer simple questions about the company’s role regarding Bai Shan Lin.
Burrowes’ statements does little to quell mounting concerns that Bai Shan Lin never went to GO-Invest for any investment deal that involves interest in logging or any related activity as it claimed in its advertisement.
Bai Shan Lin and India-owned Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc, and several other foreign companies are
under the microscope following revelations that they have been granted significant concessions which allowed them to conduct large scale logging. However, there is little evidence that the administration through its regulatory agencies like GFC followed up to ensure requirements that called on the investors to set up value-added processing facilities.
In the case of the duty free concessions and Bai Shan Lin, the company had been granted concessions in Region Six and Nine and is awaiting permission to start large scale logging.
It is the norm that shipments of duty free vehicles can only be made after the business plan by an investor is green-lighted.
Industry experts say that the situation is a highly unusual one.
Meanwhile, GFC in a Government statement yesterday refuted a story by Kaieteur News which centered on contradicted claims by the body that no logging activities are taking place in Kwebana, a forestry concession in Region One that Bai Shan Lin is operating in a joint venture arrangement.
According to Commissioner James Singh, Kaieteur News’ report was “yet another misrepresentation”.
The newspaper published photographs of trucks bearing Bai Shan Lin’s logo moving lumber out of the Region One community.
“According to Commissioner Singh, the Commission has checked the seal on the logs and has since verified that the seal was issued in 2013 and the logs harvested in 2013. The Commissioner also stated that the logs being moved out of the area are logs that were harvested and tagged since 2013.”
Singh, according to the Government statement yesterday, said that the Kwebana Production Inc. submitted its annual plan of operation for 2014 to the Commission, but the document has some deficiencies, hence, there has been no actual logging or harvesting on the Kwebana concession area of 87,361 hectares, which is under the control of Bai Shan Lin.
However, persons close to the industry refuted the Commissioner’s claims yesterday saying that the logs in the photos would have been much different in appearance had they been cut in 2013. “These logs appear fresh. Not eight months old. What this would suggest is that Bai Shan Lin has a bag of last year’s tags. Of course the truth would only be known if a separate entity was in charge of log tags — as happens in many other countries.”
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