Former Minister of Trade and Tourism, Manzoor Nadir, is saying that it is prudent for the government to set up a framework to ensure that the country benefits from the use of State lands at Ogle as opposed to one family.
Nadir made his views known recently via a letter he penned to the editor.
He said that he was following the articles that this newspaper has been publishing regarding operations at Ogle Airport Inc. (OAI) “and the monopoly position that is occupied by one family.”
Nadir said, “What is happening is a failure of the trust, powered by greed.”
The former Minister said that his understanding of the evolution of OAI revolves around what he described as one of the progressive experiments in public-private partnerships. He noted that five operators, who benefitted from the “generosity of the state,” through the use of the Ogle aerodrome, formed themselves into a company.
He said that the plan was to have the company have the facility to develop for the benefit of these operators and the industry as a whole.
Nadir noted that it was the State that provided the land and facilitated a loan for OAI as well as invested in necessary equipment.
Nadir said, “The state provided the land through a lease at peppercorn rent and the state also on-lent a two million Euro EU facility to the OAI, interest-free. In addition, the state invested millions of dollars in equipment necessary for the proper operation of the airport.”
The former Minister said that how one family has dominated the business activities and grown to have virtually total control of the Ogle Airport is a matter for the partners who were all outmanoeuvered. But, a matter for government would be to ensure state benefits which will translate to benefits for all Guyanese.
Nadir said, “Government trusted that the spirit of the initial pact would be honoured. I also feel that the original partners operated with a great amount of trust among themselves.
Warning signals went unheeded; the challenges of one of the largest operators and its public spat with OAI are well documented in the media.
The concerns of emerging operators who cannot have accommodation are also made public. In all of this, the state has a responsibility to ensure that OAI stays faithful to the spirit and letter of its agreement with the state.”
The Minister said that when the state makes concessions to allow businesses to grow and to power larger economic growth, it does so because it does not want to burden Guyanese businesses with huge, unaffordable initial capital outlays.
He said, “To acquire that amount of land, and the investment in buildings and instruments, would have cost OAI more than US$50M.
“These peppercorn leases were never intended to allow the lessee to extort huge supernormal profits by leasing at astronomical rents to others. Thus, the state has a provision that the lessee must have the state’s approval to sublet to others.”
Nadir noted that if a citizen gets a house lot and wants sell it before x number of years, the house lot owner/buyer has to pay a penalty to the state. I know that an element of market value is applied in calculating this penalty.
The former Minister said that the wrong must be corrected. He even proposed a formula that can be used to correct the wrong.”
Nadir said, “I want to advance a formula to the Lands and Surveys Commission/Ministry of Public Infrastructure where sub-letting at Ogle is concerned. Let OAI pay an annual processing fee for the sub-letted portions. The annual processing fee would equal:–Proposed sub-letting rent per acre less (-) annual lease rental of $6.
“This way any exorbitant rental fee would come to the state. In addition, the state has to be concerned with maintaining a competitive market economy and guard against monopolies. We have to ensure that the smaller firms in any industry are not challenged with predatory practices. While we still have a long way to go to set and police general principles, we must deal condignly with the specific case that emerges. Moral suasion, while not a panacea, could be a mechanism to start with.”
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