Sep 19, 2023 News
Kaieteur News – The Alliance of Change (AFC) has called on the Government of Guyana to beef up its scrutiny of the mining sector in wake of new reports of a decline in gold declarations.
Speaking at a news conference last Friday, AFC Executive Member Juretha Fernandes told reporters that the issue of low gold declarations can be solved by simply enforcing the regulations. She noted that under the A Partnership for Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition government gold declarations had increased. “Under the coalition between 2015 and 2019, we saw that the declarations for gold continued to increase throughout these years. So it is not rocket science it is very simple; it is all about enforcement. The coalition government was very keen on this. The structures and systems are in place but they are not enforcing what should be done and I believe they are willfully not doing that,” Fernandes said.
She continued that as it relates to smuggling, the APNU+AFC government had worked with international organizations to tackle this scourge. “We worked with those organisations to make sure that gold smuggling was kept under control because you know that prior to 2015 we had serious issues with that. So definitely it comes to the gold declarations it is the regulatory bodies that we need to see more enforcement from,” Fernandes added.
AFC Member of Parliament Ricky Ramsaroop shared similar sentiments. He told the press conference that under the Coalition government the Ministry of Natural Resources had set up a taskforce to help with monitoring and management of the mining sector. He reflected that when the APNUAFC took office in 2015, “Mr. GHK Lall -a no-nonsense man,” was put in charge of the gold board. Ramsaroop said: “The Minister neither the Ministry interfered with the work of boards; they allowed the professionals to handle institutions.”
He explained: “we also had a ministerial taskforce that was set up to monitor the gold sector. Today, I don’t know if that is in existence.” Further, the AFC member recalled the ministry had hired a consultant firm to do an overhaul of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to develop a better strategy for managing the sector. “There were stringent policies in place to garner the outstanding royalties that were owed to the GGMC. All because all the things were not enforced for 23 years under the PPP/C Government and people were allowed to owe billions of dollars to the GGMC.”
He said it was a hard task to take over the institution after 23 years and get to work properly in terms of managing the mining sector. “Today, we see the gold declarations declining it is because it not following this procedure,” Ramsaroop said. The AFC‘s comment comes amidst reports that despite the mining sector receiving billions in tax breaks and other incentives from the Government of Guyana, there has been a decrease in gold declarations for the first half of 2023.
The decline in declarations made by small and medium-scale miners was reflected in the Ministry of Finance Mid-Year Report 2023. It was stated that at the end of June, gold declarations stood at 209,756 ounces, compared with 236,728 ounces during the same period last year, an 11.4% decrease.
Similarly, in the Bank of Guyana’s Third Quarter Report for 2022, it was stated that gold subsector output declined due to lower declarations by small and medium-scale miners.
The 2023 Mid-Year Report, stated that declarations from the lone large producer expanded by 6.1% year-on-year. However, it was underscored that this was outweighed by lower declarations from the small- and medium-scale producers. Declarations from the latter fell from 188,956 ounces in the first half of 2022 to 159,084 ounces at the end of June this year.
According to the report, improvements observed in the early third quarter, alongside strengthened enforcement efforts by the regulatory authorities, are expected to result in a rebound in the second half. It was stated too that the gold mining subsector is now projected to grow by 5.3% in 2023. In August 2022, the National Assembly approved Fiscal Enactment Amendment Bill No. 2 of 2022, which was enacted to bring tax relief to miners. The Bill was piloted by the Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, and followed a commitment made by Vice President (VP) Bharrat Jagdeo to the mining community some months earlier.
The measures included the reduction of final tax from a maximum of 3.5 percent to 2.5 percent which would result in an estimated $1.4Billion being returned to the mining industry, and the removal of the 10 percent Tributors’ Tax that would benefit thousands of workers in the industry with $300 million expected to be returned to those who were paying this tax. Further, Minister Singh had also presented Value-Added Tax (No.3) Order 2022, removing Value Added Tax (VAT) on lubricating oil, a key input in not only the mining industry but almost all the productive sectors. In total, all measures allow for the return of a total of $1.9 billion to the mining industry – the Finance Ministry had reported. Amid growing concerns about Guyana’s gold declarations decreasing, Vice President Jagdeo during a news conference in July confirmed that the decrease in declarations is factual, but added that a probe has been launched into alleged gold smuggling.
DECEPTION & CORRUPTION getting WORSE by the minute in GUYANA.
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