By Leonard Gildarie
I am very confused. When an employee is hired, that employee is given clear instructions on what the job entails…to put it mildly in layman’s terms.
The conditions for being hired are laid out. You are required to work six days per week. You will report for duties at 07:30hrs. You are entitled to one hour lunch break between 12:00-13:00hrs. You are to treat workers and customers with respect and there will be repercussions for misuse and damage to company property. In return, you will be paid $80,000 monthly with taxes and contributions to the National Insurance Scheme deducted.
Our regulatory bodies like the Guyana Energy Agency, Guyana Forestry Commission, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Gold Board, Public Utilities Commission and a host of others are all very clear about their mandates.
The Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GAF&DD), the National Agricultural Research & Extension Institute (NAREI) and the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board are all key institutions who are gatekeepers to ensure not only that we collect our revenues for the state, inclusive of fees, but are mandated to ensure that the rules are followed.
There is a problem currently between the GAF&DD and a businessman, involving what the Department claims is the importation of “substandard” goods.
We will not delve into the merits of the case. It is still ongoing.
Suffice to say, GAF&DD has a mandate to ensure all revenues are collected and for ensuring food and drugs entering Guyana meet the safety requirements.
As we speak, in recent years, a number of regulatory bodies, as gatekeepers for the people of Guyana, have been under the spotlight.
Not only were they accused of subjectively carrying out their functions, but clear lapses in monitoring and enforcement have caused this country to lose billions of dollars in revenues.
We can recall all too well the case of a Chinese investor whose logging concessions and violations, with little monitoring, caused the new board of directors at the GFC to seize the forestry concessions.
The authorities had failed to ensure that the company in question built a processing facility as it promised in its investment agreement. The company received billions of dollars in tax waivers on equipment and luxury vehicles in return for a commitment to build a wood processing facility.
It never did. Which bring us to the questions over the role of our workers – the regulators. We lost tens of millions of dollars annually from not guarding our forestry exports as we should.
There is another emerging situation. We have a mining company here in Guyana that came in the mid-2000s. It helped to create jobs in Region 10. However, the attitude of this company has served as grim reminder of far we have sunk in not understanding our role as a regulator.
Picture this. You have a piece of land along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway. It has been in your family for decades and you have been doing some farming and paying the rental dutifully to the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission.
An investor comes to Guyana and tells you that he wants to explore your land and if he finds gold, he will pay you a share of the profits. In return, you agreed for that investor to hire your family members and even place one of them as gatekeeper on the board of directors.
The investor tells you he is producing 100 ounces monthly. He tells you that he can’t pay profits for this year because the costs are too high and he is running at a loss.
He ill-treats your family members and has even threatened them with physical harm.
When the investor is summoned to a meeting, he refuses to come, or the one time when he comes, he refuses to talk about profits.
One company has done that to Guyana. It was given fuel and duty-free concessions on scores of equipment, including massive trucks that have immense capacity.
For more than a decade, it has paid the Government of Guyana no dividends because it has not made a profit. It sells what it produces at its mines in Region 10 to a company it owns overseas at below the market price.
Who operates a company for more than a decade without making a profit?
The hard pill to swallow is that our shareholder representatives of the people of Guyana did little.
We see millions of tonnes of ore being shipped out, yet we are not interested in collecting our royalties or take.
The conclusions are shocking and had the folks down at labour or on the board been on my payroll, they would have been fired long ago.
But wait a minute, they are our employees. The shareholder representatives and labour personnel work for the state, don’t they? The money to pay them comes from my salary, is that not true?
So how come we have been sitting on our hands for more than a decade and allowed the investor to ride roughshod over us?
We have oil and gas coming and we have congestion along the roadways as we badly need alternatives. We need a new Demerara River crossing and another highway from Timehri.
We need to collect our revenues. It is the single most important thing. There can be absolutely no excuse for falling down on the job.
We have over 700,000 of our people who are depending on those revenues for a better life. As we look towards oil and gas, we cannot take our eyes what we have now.
In fact, we need to boost these sectors by building capacity and giving strength to our local businesses.
Our gatekeepers have to be held accountable for the collection of our revenues.
There can and will be no excuses. The mandates are very clear. We have to do business differently. Our people must come first.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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