By Abena Rockcliffe
Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes yesterday told the National Assembly of
the plans to ensure that Guyana is able to benefit from the country’s natural resources just as much as those involved in logging and gold mining.
“It is the intention of this administration to ensure that the natural resources sector works for the development of the Guyanese people as a whole. It can no longer exist for the prosperity of a handful,” said Broomes.
She made it clear that the high levels of gold smuggling will be aggressively attacked and that no longer will the wanton exploitation of timber resources be tolerated.
The Minister told the House that one of the real challenges in the natural resources sector lies in changing old habits.
“Even now, the pockets of poor administration, lack of attention to safety and health, and corrupt practices in the areas of the sector, continue to unfold.”
Broomes said that her Ministry and Government seem to be facing a situation where the more the layers of decay are peeled away, more decay is discovered. She said that bringing a sense of order to the natural resources sector is one of the serious challenges of the APNU-AFC administration.
The Minister told the House that her government has observed an attitude—by those harvesting the country’s natural resources—that shows a lack of concern for the environment. Broomes said that in addressing that concern, her government has to come to accept the fact that there are companies and individual operators whose only concern is with the profits that can be made from mining and logging.
Her comments in this regard reminds of reports to the effect that Guyana’s largest logging company, Bai Shan Lin, has ruthlessly been exploiting the country’s resources. Reports are that the company usually “cuts down everything insight” without even taking the time to replant.
Broomes said that that sort of behavior has to change. She added that a commitment to the environment is a commitment to the future Guyana and to the well-being of the international community.
The Minister said that those who demonstrate a lack of concern for the environment ought not to feel entitled to access this country’s natural resources.
“Our natural resources are a God-given asset. They are linked to the environment in a manner that imposes upon us a particular responsibility to treat with those resources sensitively and sensibly. Unless we do so, we will destroy ourselves in the quest to enrich ourselves.”
It is her government’s priority to properly manage the forest resources to ensure that an acceptable environmental standard is adhered to, she said.
“Accordingly, the priority of this government has to be focused on responsible timber harvesting. That is the message that we will continue to send to those who work in the industry. If we are to do so, we ourselves must create stronger monitoring mechanisms. We simply must ensure that those who seek to harvest our natural resources work within a framework of rules which are set by us,” said Broomes.
The Minister told her colleagues in Parliament that her young government has already done a lot in the natural resources sector. She promised that much more is in store.
“During my own brief tenure in the Ministry of Natural Resources I have already seen clear indications of a determination to seek to repair a system which, in some respects, has been eroded by corruption and indifference. Our task is to create a vibrant natural resources sector, one which the people of this country can look to in the period ahead.”
Broomes said that her government takes seriously its responsibility in being accountable for the management of the country’s natural resources sector. “We need to turn things around. Rolling back the tide of gold smuggling is a priority.”
Broomes said that it should surely disturb both the government and the opposition to know that, as a nation, Guyana appears unable to benefit directly from more than half of the gold produced.
“That, surely, is unacceptable. We must retain our resources for the development of our country and our people. This administration must set its face against corrupt practices; we must close the loopholes; we must ensure that we work towards re-directing that which we have been losing over time.”
Nevertheless, Broomes pointed out that despite the 13.4 per cent downturn in bauxite production and a 0.3 per cent downturn in quarrying, the mining sector as a whole grew by nine percent. It was gold with its 16.4 percent production increase that propped up the sector.
The Minister said that she is particularly proud, that local miners, through their hard work in the face of many challenges, made their own important contribution to that production increase. “Our own Guyanese miners accounted for more than 90 percent of the 451,490 ounces declared at the end of last year.”
Broomes said that the increase in declaration was due to the change in the working environment as well as the incentives granted to the sector by the APNU/AFC administration.
“This Budget points the way for our natural resources sector it signals is the turning of a corner. When we marry the developments set out in the budget with the fact that three new foreign companies are now part of our mining sector, there can be no doubt that gold has a shining future for Guyana,” said Broomes.
“The task ahead of this administration does not allow for political confrontations over the past. The APNU-AFC administration is looking ahead…so that those who anticipate long, sterile and pointless discourses will be disappointed.
“We shall, of course, be accommodating constructive discourse and it is my personal wish that such discourse starts right here in this House during the course of this debate.”
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