AMAILA AND THE NORCONSULT REPORT


I recall that long before a year had elapsed of Mrs. Janet Jagan’s presidency, an outcry arose regarding her failure to hold a press conference. She eventually held one about one year into her presidency. The voices calling out Mrs. Jagan in 1997-8 are still around, but have gone silent on President Granger failure to hold a single press conference despite having been elected to office one and a half years ago. The Norconsult Report on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) is only one of the major issues of great importance facing the country and a serious and coherent response is yet to be had from the Government.

When the Norconsult Report was commissioned the clear indication was that the Government would abide by its conclusions. In announcing the report in November 2015, Minister Winston Jordan said that, “Norway seems keen to finance an independent review to, once and for all, pronounce on the viability of the project.”

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FALTERING BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE


Guyana’s economy is declining. The growth rate fell this year and the projection for next year is modest. This means that the income of the Government has declined significantly and so has its ability to spend. Public expenditure is one of the two main props that keeps the economy ticking over and sustains employment, income and services. The othe is private investment.

In making decisions on the budget, the Government found itself between a rock and a hard place. It had to decide whether to reduce spending in proportion to its reduced income or sustain the same or a similar level of public spending as previously by raising funds by way of taxation and borrowing. It chose the latter course by imposing or increasing taxes on individuals and businesses. It has also increased the amount that it will borrow next year, eliminating any prospect of a decline in interest rates.

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CHINA


As China celebrates its National Day, it is dealing with complicated challenges on multiple fronts. Much has been written by experts who have spent lifetimes studying China and its relations with the rest of the world so that anything that comes out of our little corner of the world is very much a subject of our own limited perspectives. The defining background, of course, is China’s development into a great economic and military power in the past thirty years. For Guyana, our relations with China began in 1972 when diplomatic relations were established. Even though courageous at the time, Guyana followed the United States and did not anticipate US hostility to its move. The PPP had relations with the Chinese Communist Party long before as fraternal parties, This was disrupted during the period of the dispute between the Soviet Union and China, but resumed later.

President Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ was seen as a thinly disguised attempt to ‘contain’ the growing military power of China, which the US presumably felt would later be a threat to its allies in the region, including Japan and South Korea. While controversy has existed for a long time about China’s claims to ownership of islands claimed by other countries, including Japan, in the South China seas, the heightening of tensions by increasing US military activities, is an integral part of the efforts of the West to ‘contain’ China.  The latter’s interest in retaining influence or control over the South China seas is to protect its trade routes and its security.

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PARKING METERS


It appears as if the Georgetown City Council has already decided in principle to install parking meters in Georgetown for the purpose of creating an additional source of revenue. The streets in which the meters are to be installed are Avenue of the Republic, Regent Street, Robb Street, Camp Street, Main Street, Brickdam, Water Street, America Street and Church Street. This decision should be reconsidered.

Coming so soon after the elections, the decision to install parking meters was clearly on APNU+AFC’s agenda prior to the elections. During the elections, APNU+AFC contestants had ample opportunity to inform the residents of Georgetown that parking meters were on the agenda but they kept this plot a secret for obvious reasons.

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ABOLISH THE GOLD BOARD


The recent publication of the forensic audit into the Gold Board has raised concerns about its operations. The forensic audit revealed that “poor management of gold in its possession resulted in losses of over $10 billion for the period 2012 to 2014.” The report found that the losses were due to the maintenance of high stocks while the price for gold declined. The Board “seemed uncertain how to respond to changing market conditions and continued to hold large quantities of gold even as the price declined further.” The report, which is damning in several other respects, comes while reports of the smuggling of 450 pounds of gold to Curacao in November 2012 and Minister Trotman’s estimate of 15,000 ounces of gold being smuggled out of Guyana every week are still resonating as unresolved problems.

The Gold Board was established under the provisions of the Guyana Gold Board Act 1981 in the era when capitalism in Guyana was under official attack and nationalization of large foreign owned companies  had been executed with zeal. Foreign trade, if not nationalized, had become heavily regulated. And so the Guyana Gold Board Act was passed to establish the Gold Board as the body which would take over all trade in gold. Section 8 says that “no person shall sell any gold to, or purchase any gold from, any person other than the Board…”

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