Under the previous Government, more than 16 plots of lands in the last five years, totaling 65 acres, were allocated at Providence, East Bank Demerara, for commercial development.
The developments, according to proposals submitted for the lands, included an auto service centre, a call centre, fun park, a computer assembly factory, university and hardware store, among other things.
Not all of those lands have been developed in keeping with conditions to build. Rather, many of them are lying idle.
The call centre has been constructed by Qualfon. Texila University is constructing the university complex.
The situation would mirror another involving with housing lands, where hundreds of acres of prime lands between Providence and Diamond were also allocated to developers, but with little monitoring to ensure compliance with the conditions under which they were allocated.
According to documents of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), one of the plots of land – two acres of it – was allocated to Telecor and Cultural Broadcasting Inc., a company that was linked to former Natural Resources Minister, Robert Persaud.
Telcor may have been sold, because its radio station has been sold to Ansa McAl while its electronic newscast has been sold to Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop. It is believed that the land has been sold, too.
That company had been one of several that were controversially granted radio licences and multiple frequencies by former President Bharrat Jagdeo, weeks before his constitutional two-terms in office ended back in November 2011.
Telecor bought two acres, based on a lease agreement dated April 15, 2011, for $14M.
Another name that has popped up is Ramzan Roshanah Ali, Guyana’s Honorary Consul to Miami, Florida. He too received a two-acre plot based on a 2013 lease for $14M.
The biggest single plot went to Qualfon Guyana Inc. – 10 acres- based on an agreement of sale in April 2011. Qualfon purchased that piece of land for $70M and has built a call centre based on its proposal to the Guyana Office For Investment.
There were a number of Chinese companies that benefitted from those commercial lands also.
These include BaiShanLin International Forest Development Inc., Fun Time Family Park Inc., Haier Guyana Inc., China Jiahao Corp Inc., and Quick Auto Service Centre Inc.
BaiShanLin, Fun Time and Quick Auto are all related and have under their control more than 21 acres.
Companies like R. Maye Guyana Inc. and Hits and Jams have established operations, with the former establishing a hardware store and the latter, a water park.
CH&PA was supposed to gross over $640M from the leases and sale of the lands, which were allocated at around $7M per acre.
However, it is still being owed more than $70M by BaiShanLin’s sister company, Quick Auto, and another outfit called Top Brandz Distributors.
Prior to the David Granger administration taking office after early General Elections last year May, there
was not much information available relating to the transaction of housing lands along East Bank Demerara to private developers and other businesses which had applied for plots for commercial and industrial purposes.
CH&PA’s records indicated that little attention was paid to the developers and others after the agreements were inked.
A number of the recipients shortly after taking possession, resold the land.
In one case, contractor Brian Tiwarie sold a 100-acre plot weeks after he received it, to BaiShanLin for US$8M ($1.6B) or four times the purchase price.
BaiShanLin only paid half and now the matter is in court, with Tiwarie seeking to repossess the land back as well as the balance he is owed.
Government had met with developers last year, giving them time to construct basic infrastructure like drains and electricity and water networks. However, there has been little progress.
The manner of the allocations of the lands has been angering citizens as there is little land left on the East Demerara area, where there is a big demand for house lots.
Between Providence and Diamond, vast swaths were allocated to mainly friends of the previous administration with low and middle income allottees pushed to the back.
There have also been accusations of rackets involving the illegal sale of house lots.
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