– Forest Products Association
As stakeholders continue to express concerns over the management of the forestry sector, the Forest Products
Association of Guyana (FPA) has come out calling for urgent reforms.
FPA, which has memberships of the some of the largest logging companies, both local and foreign, said it welcomes the new Board of Directors for the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) but remains deeply concerned about the treatment of forestry operators.
Of special concern to the advocacy body is the uneven playing field that allows especially foreign investors to benefit significantly more, much to the disadvantage of local operators.
“Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) is most welcome to Guyana but the manner in which it was conducted under the previous administration was totally disrespectful and disgrace to the Guyanese people. The foreign companies took advantage of the situation arises and misuse the country resources for their personal benefit with little or no return to the country,” FPA said yesterday.
FPA would be referring to billions of dollars in tax waivers and concessions granted to foreign-owned loggers. However, many of them have failed to construct processing facilities.
Local operators said they have battled to benefit from concessions.
After a number of years of being sidelined, FPA said it has been allowed to place a representative of the new GFC board.
President (acting), Deonarine Ramsaroop, explained that it is a fact that the raw materials, including logs being shipped out, with little benefits coming back to Guyana.
“The Government we understand is re-examining the contract documents for these companies, but this is just not enough. There are many other companies who are knocking on the doors that want to come in and invest too. We should simply send these (who have failed in their commitment) packing and bring in fresh investments if that is what it takes to correct the situation,” FPA said in a statement to this newspaper.
The body pointed out that its members want the same playing field as international companies because they all compete on the same markets.
“…and if we to encourage internal growth of our small and medium sizes businesses then we should all be sitting on the same field. There are tons of issues facing this sector and already we have met with the Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, and we are discussing a way forward.”
FPA said it is grateful for the wisdom of Government to ensure that place was found on GFC board.
The move is clear recognition of “our importance to the forestry sector and its development and we therefore commit to ensure the forestry sector move forward trough meaningful dialogue.”
The organization said that Minister Trotman had no hesitation in deciding on FPA’s return when the idea was raised with him.
The proposal for a return to GFC board had before the previous government prior to the May 11th elections but found no favor, the body claimed.
FPA also lauded new GFC’s chairpersons, Jocelynne Dow, who has committed to addressing the current issues facing the forestry sector.
“The FPA would like to recognize her fairness and openness in dealing with this sector and wishes her success.”
FPA, in calling for its members to become more vocal, challenged them to come up with solutions to make the sector an attractive one, once again for small investors.
“This was one huge area that is lacking in the Guyana Forestry Commission. The budget and work plan of the commission are currently being reviewed by the association which will soon be making its recommendations to the board.”
FPA also said yesterday that that while Guyana is pushing a green economy, its members continue to face the burden of stifling rules and regulations from GFC with little to show.
“The forestry sector has no benefit from the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) funds.”
Committing itself to work with the government in finding new markets and bring changes.
“We would like to explore new markets not only India and China. Africa needs lots of our Guyanese woods and we would recommend that we reached out as far as we can to take this sector forward.”
FPA made it clear that the current GFC administration “still needs cleaning up” because “once you are part of the problem then you can’t find a solution. We would like this “iron fist” and “big foot” method discontinued. Because a new dawn has come where we have to put people first and personal matters and benefit last.”
The troubles of the forestry sector reared their head once again over a week ago when Minister Trotman told the National Assembly, during the 2016 budget debate, that all of Guyana’s productive forests are gone.
He described it as a slap in the face of Guyanese.
However, Opposition Leader and ex-president, Bharrat Jagdeo, under whose watch a number of questionable forest concessions were granted, denied this was so. He claimed that only 55 percent of the forests have been allocated.
However, records of GFC among other details, painted a different picture of a sector where the productive forest was grabbed up, by even government officials.
Large concessions have been granted to Chinese and Indian investors who have failed to establish value-added processing despite commitments.
There are indications that hundreds of containers of logs have left the country in the last decade, despite a periodical raising of taxes and royalties.
Guyana would be extremely concerned over complaints about the management of the sector especially as a new deal is in the making with Norway to reduce deforestation.
The last deal, hailed as an historic one, was for US$250M once Guyana meets certain targets.
The country was reportedly penalized a chunk of that money for failing to meet some targets.
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