Category Archives: Development / Investment

Guyana to get $9.3B from EU

European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs yesterday signed development programmes for 21 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group countries and Guyana’s allocation is Euros 34 Million ($9.28B) over the next seven years.

A release from the European Union yesterday said that the funds for Guyana will focus mainly on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, including sea defences. The agreement was signed in the Pacific Ocean island of Samoa.

The funds have been allocated to the countries’ National Indicative Programmes under the 11th European Develop-ment Fund (EDF) for the period 2014-2020.

Guyana’s Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett (left) and European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs after the signing of Guyana’s NIP. (EU photo)

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett signed the deal with Pielsbag on behalf of Guyana.

The signing occurred on the sidelines of the UN Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States. Aside from Guyana, the signatory countries from the Caribbean are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

After the signing ceremony, Piebalgs said: “Today’s signatures mark the official go-ahead to continue strengthening our development cooperation with the concerned countries. These documents lay down the priorities for our joint work for the next seven years and will allow us to move ahead with the preparations of the concrete projects and programmes.”

He added “For the European Union it is essential that our programmes are drawn up in close cooperation with our partner countries, based on governments’ own policies and strategies and reflecting their stated needs. This is how we ensure that programming documents really support areas where the EU can add value”.

EU Member States agreed in 2013 the overall amount for development cooperation that will be directed to 78 ACP countries through the 11th EDF. The National Indicative Programmes that were signed yesterday define the strategy and priorities for EU aid in each particular country and were done in close cooperation with the partner countries.

One of the programmes that is likely to be financed for Guyana is the second phase of the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary Scheme.

Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy has mentioned the project twice in recent weeks and said it will be 30M Euros (US$41M).

While Phase Two of the MMA is still at the funding clearance and ministerial level, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority has met with EU representatives, exchanging technical data on the contours of the project which straddles regions four and five.

Ramsammy had stated during the recent presentation of the 2013-2020 National Strategy for Agriculture that the first portion of the MMA-ADA Phase Two will take up to five years and should make available up to 200,000 acres of land in Mahaicony.

Part of the project will be the damming of the Mahaicony River which is expected to ease flooding in the area.

Phase two of the MMA project will focus on the Mahaicony area. Phase two and three of the project were to be completed decades ago, however only the Abary segment was ever completed. Critics say the Abary segment is not functioning the way it was intended and it may have to be reopened and re-engineered before the other phases are tackled.

Phases two and three are seen as critical to protecting Mahaicony and Mahaica from deep flooding and to open up more lands for rice farming.

Some Bai Shan Lin joint ventures may be illegal – experts

Some of the Joint Ventures (JV) involving logging company Bai Shan Lin may be illegal as provisions in the Forest Act 2009 did not come into force until 2012, forestry experts Janette Bulkan and John Palmer have said.

“The choice of 2009 by the GFC staff as the first year for approval of joint ventures appeared to be based on a belief that the passage of the Forest Act 2009 by the National Assembly in January of that year meant that it entered into force immediately. In fact, Presidential assent was delayed by a possible world-record-breaking 628 days by then-President Bharrat Jagdeo, and the commencement order required by section 1 of the Act was only signed by Minister Robert Persaud on 08 August 2012,” Palmer and Bulkan wrote in the Stabroek News last week.

“In law, therefore, the Forests Act 1953/1997 continued to be the operational forest law until August 2012. Activities contrary to that law and its associated Forest Regulations 1953 were illegal until August 2012. All the so-called ‘joint ventures’ – actually, landlording – devised until August 2012, and all the approvals of such landlording by the GFC Board until August 2012, were illegal unless approved for TSAs by the Minister of Forests (the President). There is no evidence in the public domain that former President Bharrat Jagdeo gave prior formal approval to any transfers under Regulation 12 of the Forest Regulations or Condition 13 of the Timber Sales Agreements. The emphasis is on ‘prior’; there is no legal provision for retroactive approval,” the duo wrote.

Commissioner of Forests James Singh told reporters at a press conference recently that Bai Shan Lin has four joint venture (JV) arrangements. In 2007, Danny Chan transferred all the shares in Haimorakabra Logging Company Inc as well as Karlam Sawmill to Chu Wenze, the chairman of BSL, and in April 2009, the JV with Wood Associated Industries Company (WAICO) was approved. The GFC board in March this year approved the JV with BSL and Puruni Woods Inc and in April approved the JV with Kwebanna Wood Products Inc.

Bulkan and Palmer identified several dealings involving Bai Shan Lin – renting or private sales of forest concessions – ‘joint ventures’ – which they said were “probably illegal” pending contradiction by formal publication of such prior approvals, with date-stamping of signatures before the dates of any joint venture contracts.

The duo said that the total area of these probably illegal rentings or joint ventures is 762 000 hectares which represents over half of Bai Shan Lin’s “forest empire” in Guyana.

Bulkan and Palmer identified the Haimorakabra State Forest Permission (SFP) as well as the WAICO Timber Sales Agreement and Karlam South American (Guyana) Timber as among the transactions that were likely illegal. They also identified the case of Demerara Timbers Ltd’s TSAs 02/1991 and 03/1991 in 2007 covering 492 000 ha as an undertaking that may be afoul of the law. “That no shares may actually have been transferred is not a defence because Condition 13 of the TSA licence refers to ‘any interest’, not just the company shares,” they wrote.

The duo also cited the case of the A Mazaharally TSA 02/1990 or TSA 04/2009 which covers 87 000 ha, “when rented variously to Barama and to Ram Ali,” as likely illegal but when it was passed to Bai Shan Lin in April 2014, that transfer was legal.

“Possibly illegal were the rentings of Nagasar Sawh’s TSA 02/1985 (29 000 ha) and Garner’s TSA 03/2005 (93 000 ha) but information is not confirmed,” they wrote. They added that there is also no evidence in the public domain that the GFC Commissioner gave prior formal approval to transfer of State Forest Permission Bce 15/1987 to Bai Shan Lin, as required by Condition 2 of 16 of State Forest Permissions.

The duo noted that ‘Landlording’ is the practice in which the legal holder of a forest harvesting concession gives up managerial control and rents it out to another enterprise. The practice is illegal under Forest Regulation 12, 1953 which stated that “No transfer or any lease or timber sales agreement shall be made by any forest officer without the prior approval of the President where such lease or timber sales agreement grants exclusive rights to any person over an area estimated to exceed three thousand acres or is for an unexpired period exceeding three years.”

Bulkan and Palmer pointed out that eight years after the drafting of the Forest Bill 2007, “the GFC has still not prepared regulations subsidiary to what is now the Forests Act 2009 (activated in August 2012 and backdated to October 2010). So the Forest Regulations 1953 are still in legal effect.”

 

Condition 13

They also pointed out that landlording is illegal under Condition 13 of Timber Sales Agreements which states that “The grantee shall not transfer, sublet, mortgage or otherwise dispose of any interest arising under this agreement except in accordance with the Forest Regulations and any purported disposition made except in accordance with such regulations shall be null and void.”

The duo pointed out that much the same wording is found in the third edition of the GFC Code of Practice for forest operations for Timber Sales Agreement and Wood Cutting License holders: “The concessionaire shall not transfer, sublet, mortgage or otherwise dispose of any interest arising under the concession agreement.”

Bulkan and Palmer noted that although the illegalities of renting logging concessions were exposed repeatedly in the independent Press in early 2007, at the time of the Barama ‘bad-faith contracts’ with Amerindian communities Akawini and St. Monica in Region 1, the GFC continued to allow the other three Asian-owned logging companies to rent concessions: Bai Shan Lin, DTL and Jaling.

“The chaotic situation resulting from uncontrolled renting of concessions, and the evident loss of control by the GFC over the State Forests which it is mandated to administer on behalf of the people of Guyana, contributed to the citizens’ petition against the technically weak Forest Bill 2007,” they said. The National Assembly failed to take heed, Bulkan and Palmer noted.

They also said that in addition to the illegalities, the accumulations of rented logging concessions are contrary to national policy. “The 1993 timber concession policy is clear that ‘No additional areas will be granted to TSA holders until they have demonstrated their ability to work existing concessions for maximum sustained yield’ (GFC timber concession policy 1993, page 3). And ‘the grantee shall work the area to the satisfaction of the Commissioner in accordance with the terms of this Agreement’ (Timber Sales Agreement template in the second schedule ‘A’ of the Forest Regulations 1953/1982, clause 6). This clause is reiterated as ‘The concessionaire shall work the area to the satisfaction of the Commis-sioner in accordance with the terms of the concession agreement and only in accordance with the Forest Management plan, as approved by the Commissioner, . . .’ in the third edition of the GFC Code of Practice for forest operations for Timber Sales Agreement and Wood Cutting License holders,” they said.

“Neither during the management by the original Guyanese concession holder nor subsequently under Bai Shan Lin have any of these concessions been worked to the maximum sustainable yield,” the duo declared.

“The field audits prescribed in the same 1993 policy would have shown that the loggers were not cutting at those intensities, and therefore the concessions were not being worked in accordance with GFC prescriptions, and therefore there were no grounds for adding more concession area by adding more rented TSAs. The under-cutting in overall terms was readily acknowledged and shown in data tables during the presentation by the GFC Commissioner at the Press conference on 18 August. Thus the illegal renting of Haimorakabra in 2007 has been aggravated by the against-policy additions of other TSAs to the Bai Shan Lin forest empire,” Bulkan and Palmer said.

Bai Shan Lin has announced big plans in various sectors for Guyana but concerns have been raised by some analysts that its primary interest is logs for export, with little downstream processing. Its operations have come under increased scrutiny in recent times. The company has failed to live up to commitments to do value-added processing but government officials, including President Donald Ramotar, have defended the company. Bai Shan Lin’s access to key parts of the economy has also raised questions about the regulation of its business by the forestry commission and associated bodies.

Marriott almost completed but not many locals employed

- contracts with Govt, investors determine local employment

Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in third world countries are welcomed, particularly for the creation of jobs. The situation in Guyana is no different since very often, contracts entered into by Government with investors determine the level of local employees. However, there are certain job-skills that would have to be imported.

The multi-million dollar Marriott Hotel in Kingston is almost completed but there is no local labour for this fence. Government has said that the hotel would employ locals.

This is according to a senior official of the Ministry of Labour, who said that the desirable scenario in signing these agreements is to have local employment secured.
However, foreign investors feel more comfortable with having familiar persons around.
In fact, not so long ago, Government inked a construction contract for the Marriott-branded hotel in Guyana with Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) with one of the conditions being no Guyanese would be employed in the initial phases.
The justification was that the Guyanese labour force did not have the skills to build such a hotel. Incidentally, Government did not even find it necessary to include a clause that would allow the transfer of skills to prevent a similar situation in the future. Even now at the hotel, where the fence is under construction, there is no local labour evident in its construction. Government has said that the hotel would employ locals for the latter phases.
In addition, Government jumped at the opportunity of lowering the cost of constructing the hotel from US$65M to US$51M at the expense of the Guyanese labour force.
According to the official, the utilization of foreign labourers is monitored by the Ministry of Home Affairs- the agency that issues work permits. Personnel of the Ministry are tasked with visiting work sites to ensure investors do not employ more foreigners than the agreed number in the contract.
It has been observed that foreigners have been taking on traditional jobs such as truck drivers and heavy duty operators particularly in the mining and forestry sectors.
For instance, the majority of heavy duty vehicles and trucks owned by Bai Shan Lin, a Chinese company operating in Guyana’s forestry sector, are operated by Chinese nationals. Circumstances under which the foreign nationals were granted drivers’ licences were questioned since a language barrier exists.
The official said that there is a shortage of heavy-duty operators in Guyana. And, even though, there is continuous training, there seems not to be enough to satisfy the various sectors.
It is unclear how many Guyanese are shortchanged with this situation since the rate of unemployment is unknown.
According to the official, the Ministry of Labour is still computing data from the recently completed census. He explained that the Ministry of Labour’s primary roles include mediation, conciliation and to ensure good working conditions exist.
While, many Guyanese have gained employment with these foreign companies, the conditions under which they work are reportedly not in keeping with regulations. The official related that many persons working in the hinterland have been exploited by both foreign and local companies but the Ministry’s hands are tied and can only act once a complaint has been lodged.
The official noted that the Ministry has been doing a fairly good job to help persons receive outstanding payments in the interior. For example, the Ministry was able to recover about $20M in outstanding payments to workers for this year thus far.
The official pointed out that the Ministry is currently moving to get a foreign logging company prosecuted for not paying a family for woods cut.
Only recently, Bai Shan Lin was accused of paying the few locals it employs in Region 10, $500 per day- an allegation the company denies. If that were the case it would mean that the company is in violation of the new minimum wage order of $35,000 per month.
According to the company, for interior locations, most of the Guyanese employed are paid based on performance, “the more you work, the more you will earn.”
The performance scheme was acknowledged by some Amerindians who said they were promised payment on the size and number of logs cut. However, they were never given the opportunity to measure the size of logs. In addition, they accused the company of having outstanding payments for them.

Despite full page ads which claim compliance….Bai Shan Lin delinquent with NIS and PAYE payments

Even though Chinese Logging Company Bai Shan Lin in a full page advertisement last Thursday claims to be creating jobs and contributing to Guyana, it has not been up to date in its NIS and PAYE payments.
Checks revealed that the company, Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development which was registered in 2007 only started paying NIS and PAYE in 2013. Bai Shan Lin Housing and Construction Inc which was registered in 2012 only paid NIS and PAYE in October 2013.
Further checks revealed that Bai Shan Lin Ship Building Inc which was registered in 2012 has never paid NIS or PAYE. Bai Shan Lin Mining Development Inc was registered in August 2013 and has never paid any NIS or PAYE contributions.
The records are a clear contradiction of what the advertisement by Bai Shan Lin claimed. In the advertisement, BSL stated that it is committed to abiding by the laws of Guyana in its execution of work in the forestry sector.
It is unclear whether workers are required to pay their own NIS and PAYE, but the company has not been up to date with payments, one source explained.
The company also claimed that having started operations in Guyana since 2007, it then moved to purchase logs from local concessionaires and entered into joint venture agreements with several.
However even though Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Inc began local operations in 2007, the records would show something different. The company registered with the Deeds Registry in 2012. Required by law, it submitted financial statements up to August 2014.
Bai Shan Lin International Ship Building and Company Inc was registered around the same time and has submitted financial statements up until 2014.
Indian Logging Company, Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc, has been paying since 2007. But Vaitarna is not registered with the Deeds Registry as a company operating out of Guyana.
Bai Shan Lin, a Chinese logging company, has big plans for Guyana: forest concessions covering 960,000 hectares; a 20-kilometre river gold mining concession; a 500-hectare Guyana-China Timber Industry Economic and Trading Cooperation Park and a 160-hectare real estate development.
Despite the scale of the planned operations, Bai Shan Lin’s agreements with the government of Guyana are not public and there has been no discussion in the National Assembly about the company’s plans.
In Guyana, it is illegal for a logging company to take over another logging company’s operation, unless officially authorized by the President. Yet Bai Shan Lin has managed to enter into large scale joint ventures with a number of locals.
In June, Bai Shan Lin submitted an application to the Environmental Protection Agency seeking environmental authorization to undertake a large scale logging and sawmill operation.
According to the public notice which was published, the company asked for the authorization for several areas including the Left Bank of the Essequibo River, Right Bank Berbice River, Right Bank Essequibo River, Left Bank Corentyne River, Left Bank Lysles River, River Bank Berbice River and Right Bank Powis River, as well as locations with Regions Nine and Six.
Bai Shan Lin has been granted a forestry concession that amounts to close on one million hectares of rainforest, from which it plans to extract logs and ship them out of Guyana. The company estimates that it will make US$1,800 from each hectare of land, giving it profits totaling US$1.7 billion, according to redd-monitor.org.
In addition, the Chinese company sought permission to dig up a 20-kilometre stretch of river to look for gold.
Other plans include setting up what it is calling a Guyana-China Timber Industry Economic and Trading Corporation Park, plus a 400-acre real estate development. The plans were announced in 2012 by Chu Wenze, Chairman of Bai Shan Lin, at the Second World Congress on Timber and Wood Products Trade in Taicang, China.
Those plans were announced even before Guyana knew of it. The country became aware of what was happening only when Bai Shan Lin officials visited Guyana and held discussions with President Donald Ramotar and other Government officials.
On Redd-monitor.org, it was stated that in November 2012, Chu Wenze, the Chairman of Chinese logging company Bai Shan Lin, gave a presentation outlining his company’s plans for Guyana at the World Congress in Taicang, China. These plans have threatened Guyana’s proposals to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.
In November 2012, Whu Wenze and David Dabydeen, Guyana’s Ambassador to China, took part in a signing ceremony for a loan from the Chinese Development Bank for Bai Shan Lin’s forestry projects in Guyana.
According to the website Global Timber, Bai Shan Lin’s concessions were acquired from other concession holders, a process known as “landlording” which is illegal in Guyana (unless officially authorised by the President). Under Guyanese law, forest concessions cannot be traded, but must be re-advertised by the Forestry Commission in an open auction.

Billion-dollar lab set for crime fight

After years of serial unsolved crimes, the investigative capacity of law enforcement is expected to be boosted with the opening of the long-awaited Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory.

The Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory

The $1.049 billion project which was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) was commissioned yesterday and in addition to conducting a broad range of tests, a section of the sprawling 12, 000-ft complex will be used as a training ground for science students of the University of Guyana.

The IDB has been approached about the inclusion of DNA testing at the facility.

Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee in his address to the sizeable gathering thanked the University for providing the land on which the building has been constructed. He said that of critical importance was the credibility of the lab, the evidence it produced and the fact that it needed to be built on neutral ground. It was through negotiation that the government, he said, managed to secure a section of the Turkeyen campus.

He said that the university “was able to negotiate that the lab be used as a training ground for young scientists in the field of forensics.” He said that there is a special section located within the building for these students.

He added that qualified staffing and under whose supervision the facility should fall were issues of concern. Rohee stated that it was later decided that the lab would fall under the supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The minister stated that the lab will aim to use scientific techniques in solving crimes “that we have not seen in the history of crime solving in our country before.” He added that the use of these techniques is all part of a system in keeping with international best practices.

Rohee assured that the lab will not be another white elephant. He said that they have also discussed the question of the clientele of the laboratory in order to formulate a business plan to ensure that at every stage of its development it is active and “taking business in order to drive its professionalism.” The lab, he stressed is expected “to be a revenue stream for the government of Guyana” adding that the various scientific tests will be offered to clients locally and at a later stage internationally.

He said the facility is outfitted with “state-of-the-art” equipment including highly specialized systems which will keep track of all evidence submitted for analysis.

A section of the interior of the lab. (GINA photo)

He said that the lab will specialize in testing toxic substances, narcotic drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, forged documents and biological fluids. He said that based on a mandate given by the president and the cabinet the ministry has been tasked with working to introduce some elements of laboratory DNA testing at the facility.

Rohee said that in the years to come what would be of critical importance is the adherence to international standards. He said that Guyana has now joined the family of forensic labs in the Caribbean, adding that steps have already been taken to establish contact with laboratories around the world in order to facilitate the exchange of experiences, information and training of the staff.

He described the commissioning as “a proud moment.”

The construction of the lab falls under the Citizens Security Programme (CSP). The programme coordinator Anil Ramnath in giving an overview of the project stated that the ground floor houses the administrative offices, library and research area, conference room, security monitoring, evidence submission room and washroom. The top flat, he explained, accommodates four departments: chemistry, toxicology, document and evidence trace. These, departments he went onto explain, had six laboratories and evidence rooms.

Sophie Makonnen, the country representative of the IDB in her remarks said the collaboration between the Government of Guyana and the IDB started three years ago. She said that one of the findings of that milestone collaboration was the limited capacity of the police to hear complaints and for the court to successfully prosecute cases.

She said that the lack of appropriate and effective handling as well as processing and analysis of evidence was one main weakness in the successful prosecution of cases.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon said in his feature address that the construction of the lab is further evidence of national development coming out of the 2006-2011 period when former president Bharrat Jagdeo held office. He said that this national institution can generate interest on the local and international scenes.

The building was constructed by Courtney Benn Construction Company. Trinidad-based firm Western Scientific installed the forensic equipment.

Senior members of the disciplined services including acting police commissioner Seelall Persaud and Crime Chief Leslie James and Fire Chief Marlon Gentle, Chancellor of the University of Guyana Jacob Opadeyi and officials of the Diplomatic Community were also in attendance.

Dynamic Airways still to operate out of JFK

 … hopes to rectify issues by Monday
Dynamic Airways will continue to operate outside of John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport since it is still to meet certain requirements that will allow them to fly in and out of the New York port. The American-based charter company is hoping that by next Monday all issues would be resolved when it provides outstanding documentation to JFK authorities; hires a new ground handling team and identifies a terminal to operate out of.
Head of Roraima Airways, Captain Gerry Gouveia reiterated during a press conference yesterday that US airport authorities denied operations at JFK when the initial ground handling crew placed untagged bags on the aircraft.

Captain Gerry Gouveia in his address to the press.

Gouveia assumed blame for the problems that arose as a result of the ground crew since he said that he recommended the ground handling team to Dynamic Airways because it is headed by a Guyanese-national.
Outside of that, a letter addressed to Dynamic’s Business Development Vice President Thomas Johnson from JFK’s Environmental Specialist Aeronautical and Technical Services Division showed that while the airline acquired environmental clearance they were still to fulfill other requirements.
The letter which speaks to aircraft noise, operational restrictions and weight is dated July 2, and is a response to the airline’s request of June 25 for the operation of a Boeing 767-200 at JFK. This suggests that the company had not cleared matters with JFK before it started operations out of New York to Guyana on June 26.
The letter had stated further that the airline had to finalize business and emergency plans with JFK’s Commercial Development Unit and Aeronautical Services Unit.  It included appropriate operating agreements, submission of required security deposits, emergency plans among other things.
Gouveia admitted to media personnel that in hindsight, given all that has taken place, it would have been prudent for the airline to have waited until everything was finalized.
“In terms of (Dynamic’s) start up, the haste with which it was done could have been delayed, and would have overcome these issues…and I will be the first to admit that. Unfortunately, I basically handled the Guyana part of the operation and I trusted Dynamic’s people to do their part.”
Gouveia added, however, that Dynamic and Roraima are in it together and they are working to resolve all issues.
Currently, Dynamic Airways’ passengers are being flown to alternate airports and are shuttled to JKF via buses. Gouveia stated that tickets are being sold with JFK as the final destination, but passengers are being informed before hand, that they will not be landing there. He said that the point of taking passengers to alternate airports is to ensure that they are not stranded as a result of what is taking place at the New York port.
Last Sunday, passengers were shuttled from JFK to Atlantic City International Airport before being flown to Guyana. They are also using the Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. On Tuesday, passengers arrived there and were then shuttled to JFK.
At the level of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Zulphicar Mohamed told the publication that they are aware of the issues the company is facing in New York. Dynamic had acquired permission to operate locally, a day before it entered the Guyanese market.
Mohamed said that the airline problem is with JFK where certain requirements have to be fulfilled by the airline to operate there. He continued that since Dynamic is an American carrier the local Authority had to merely verify that clearance was given from the US Department of Transport (DOT) among other oversight agencies.
The Authority also had to ensure that the airline made its security deposit, while safety and security checks had to be made locally.
The airline has authorization to operate out of any airport in the US, but will submit a schedule to the DOT to operate on specific routes such, for example Georgetown/ New York route. While the airline has the permission from both sides to operate, Mohamed reiterated that the difficulties come at the level of the airport. It is for that reason, he mentioned that flights were entering and exiting at other airports.

GPL completes project to connect Demerara, Berbice

A section of the newly upgraded and expanded GPL Substation at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice.

In one of its most significant developments, the state-owned power company yesterday announced that it has finally completed works to connect Berbice and Demerara.
In effect, the cable across the Berbice River, will serve to stabilize power in the Region Five and Six areas in Berbice, solving a longstanding problem.
According to the Guyana Power and Light Inc., the transmission link was completed 21:33hrs on Sunday, forming what will be known as the ‘Demerara Berbice Interconnected System’.
“This milestone has been decades in the making and has been finally achieved after many technical challenges were overcome. This development would allow GPL to transfer power from generating facilities in Demerara to consumers throughout Berbice, thereby improving the stability and reliability of power supply in Regions 5 and 6.”
With the new link in place, GPL will over the coming weeks be further fine-tuning the system to optimize performance and power quality.
“Some of these activities may result in short power interruptions. We will endeavour to inform you in advance of any such outages. Overall available generation capacity in Demerara and Berbice is now 100.6MW and the peak demand is 95MW.”
According to GPL, efforts are being made to repair some 6MW generating capacity within the next two weeks, while a 5.5MW Wartsila currently on overhaul is expected back in service by July 4th.
The works for the link would have involved the contractor, China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC), along with sub-contractors and GPL personnel from its Projects and Operations Divisions.
“Special mention should be made of the diligence and dedication of our Transmission and Distribution (T&D) and System Control and Engineering Services who braved adverse weather on Sunday to complete all the rearrangements on the transmission lines and distribution feeders.”
Government is currently working on a US$40M-plus project to run new transmission stretching along the coast to Berbice. Seven new sub-stations are also being built to help better manage the power and isolate problems. A US$26M power plant is also being built in Vreed-en-Hoop, West Bank Demerara.
The demand for power has been growing in recent years in the face of new housing schemes and more industries. Guyana is exploring the possibilities of hydro-electric power, to ease the dependability on imported oil for its engines.
A wind farm at Hope Beach, East Coast Demerara is also being developed.

Concerns about counterfeit products and water quality spur crucial workshop

“The fate of good food in terms of labelling now rests with you,” said Resident Representative of the Pan American Health Organisation and World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), Dr. William Adu-Krow, as he addressed the participants of a ‘Food nutritional labelling and water testing’ workshop yesterday.

A section of the participants attending the workshop yesterday.

And there is significant progress already being made to ensure that authenticity of food labelling obtains on the market, Dr. Adu-Krow noted, as he presented brief remarks at the start of the forum held at the Institute of Applied Science and Technology building, University of Guyana campus.
“I think that you are making a lot of inroads…Based on the expertise available we are confident that food inspectors and environmental health officers will be equipped to exercise and enhance regulatory oversight on food labelling for compliance to nutritional labelling and claims as stated on the labels on food products.”
With focus on labelling features such as sample content, caloric value, claims and warnings, the workshop, which was co-organised by the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) and PAHO, is designed to examine, among others, the labelling of genetically modified foods – whole grain, processed foods, processed fruits and vegetables, and processed meats.
According to Food and Drug Director, Marlan Cole, the workshop is arguably the first of its kind to be spearheaded by his department. Nevertheless, he underscored that it could not have come at a better time, since the local market is currently inundated with counterfeit products. “This situation is not restricted to food only as it includes drugs, cosmetics, and other products as well…,” said Cole, who went on to note that it was in fact a strategic move to collaborate with supporting agencies such as PAHO and the University of the West Indies’ Tropical Medicine Research Institute (TMRI) to address the existing state of affairs.
Tasked with facilitating and sharing key information to help combat counterfeiting challenges, the visiting TMRI group includes Professor Marvin Reid, Sasha Thomas and Sardia Morgan-McDonald.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Professor Reid said that “the expectation from our side is that there will be a bi-directional flow of information; we will learn from you because in your own right you are all your own experts and you know what the conditions are on the ground. From our side we will try to share as much as we know to assist you in making your work much easier.”
Cole emphasised that in its earnest attempt to tackle the counterfeiting challenge, the Food and Drug Department has also been working closely with members of the National Food Safety and Control Committee and Environmental Health Officers.
“We must be able to bridge that gap between the manufacturers and the consumers, and in bridging that gap, we must be able to support determinations as it relates to the content of food, drugs or cosmetics…”

PAHO/WHO Dr William Adu-Krow (centre) hands over portable water-testing kits to GA-FDD Director, Marlan Cole, in the presence of TMRI Representative, Professor Marvin Reid (left).

According to Cole, “we must be able to say if it is low-fat, no-fat, 100 per cent free of trans-fat, free of whatever might be claimed. Any health claims an officer must be able to look at a label and make a determination and reliably inform consumers.”
He pointed out that usually products are outfitted with labels that make a number of claims for marketing and selling purposes, and it is therefore the role of entities like the GA-FDD, together with associated agencies, to ensure that these labels are authentic.
And detecting counterfeit labels may not always be a very difficult task, since according to the GA-FDD Director, “we know in many instances when a product is being counterfeited there are many mistakes with the label itself.”
As such, Cole is convinced that the workshop is one that will see crucial information being transferred from the expert TMRI consultants to the participants, who will be the ones engaged in the task of detecting counterfeit products. And according to Cole, too, “the consultants are very experienced in this area and I know the information would be used in the very best interest of our manufacturing and importing industries and our consumers will by extension be informed as well.”
This move comes at a time when consumers are already more alert about the products they seek to purchase, Cole noted, as he observed that “consumers are becoming very health conscious, they are seeking out products that are natural, that are organic, that are low in sugar and low in salt.”
Moreover, GA-FDD’s Tandica Barton in opening remarks yesterday said that the workshop is geared towards safeguarding the health and wellbeing of consumers. She pointed out that “it is with great hope that in the next few days all participants will be well informed about the important aspects of nutritional labelling.”
As such, the workshop will examine principles of nutrition; introduction to food labelling regulations, nutritional labelling and its requirements; nutrient content and health claims and the development of a food label with nutritional content.
The four-day workshop, which targets mainly Food and Drug as well as Environmental and Public Health officers, drawn from various regions, also entailed a segment on how to maintain and use portable DelAgua water-testing kits that were donated by PAHO. Aided by the testing kits, it is expected that concerted efforts will be made countrywide to test the quality of water available to the consuming public.
The testing kits are slated to be utilised mainly by environmental health workers, and at least one will be handed over to the Guyana Water Incorporated in order to facilitate bacteriological analysis of drinking water in remote areas. This process, it is believed, will address the water quality challenges that were found during a gastroenteritis outbreak in Region One last year.

World Accreditation Day 2014… Energy in manufacturing, productivity essential to competitiveness – GEA

Manufacturing and production cost can be 20 percent of a business’s operating cost and five companies were identified for a pilot project which showed ways to decrease energy cost, according to Clement Duncan, CEO Swansea Industrial Associates/GMSA Executive Member.
The 18-month pilot project was completed in April last. This was disclosed as World Accreditation Day was celebrated on Monday last under the theme “Accreditation: Delivering confidence in the provision of energy”. The observation was held in collaboration with the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) and the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA).

Stakeholders in attendance at the World Accreditation Day event.

According to GNBS Public Relations Officer, Lloyd David, this year the focus will be on the role that accreditation plays in providing confidence in the provision of energy. Energy provision encompasses attempts to meet the needs of the world’s current population without negatively impacting future generations.
The event which attracted stakeholder was held at the Pegasus Hotel. At the head table were Candelle Walcott-Bostwick, Head of Conformity Assessment Department GNBS, Horace Williams, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Electrification Unit, Office of the Prime Minister, Clement Duncan, Dr. Mahender Sharma, Executive Director of GEA and Al Donavon Fraser, Technical Officer GNBS.
“In this project we searched the Caribbean and identified two highly experienced energy specialists to work with us in guiding us through the project…The first dimension looked at the static nature of what is presently happening with GPL…Secondly, energy as looked at from a lighting perspective, energy from heating and cooling perspective and motorized… In compiling the data we looked at the energy guzzlers and points of reference that were of significance,” Duncan noted.
He explained that motorized and cooling equipment were targeted for corrective action for energy efficiency rating.
“The energy gap analysis between what you are paying to GPL and what your equipment says that you ought to have been paying. That gap formed what we called the gap of corrective action could either be technological, systemic, best practices or a combination of all,” Duncan underscored.
“As such 33 engineers and technicians were identified for energy audits which can be used by the management of the individual companies.”
He said the end results aim to not only use energy in an environmentally sound manner, but enhance the ability to be competitive. The results of testing, inspections and certifications produce both consumer and regulatory confidence in products moving between markets.  Because of the stated and verified equivalency, it allows manufacturers to test a product once, rather than multiple times, in the process of seeking regulatory approvals and moving it across borders.
According to Dr. Mahender Sharma, Executive Director of GEA, an energy assessment is necessary to evaluate areas for improvement in reducing the energy consumed, which saves money. He explained that Energy assessments/audits can assess the energy efficiency of buildings, equipment and processes using diagnostic tools and analytical procedures, and make feasible, practical and fact-based recommendations to customers to save energy and money.
Major events, press campaigns, workshops and seminars will take place in conjunction with the celebration of World Accreditation Day in over 90 countries to raise awareness of the value that accreditation plays in providing confidence in the provision of energy.
Energy suppliers are certified to demonstrate that their processes and procedures are appropriate, and to declare their environmental credentials. In turn, certification to ISO 50001 can help businesses improve energy-related performance and identify energy reduction opportunities.
Other topics discussed pertained to the benefits of energy efficiency in building, manufacturing and service sectors.

Foreigners are free to invest, but not take our country for free – Harmon

In light of all that has been in the news about China, both locally and on the international stage, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament, Joseph Harmon has sought to make it clear that he has no problem with foreign investments, specifically those of China or its nationals. He said in fact that he is an advocate for “sound” foreign investments but his problem comes when these investors are handed Guyana on a platter.
A few weeks back, Kaieteur News published an article carrying the headline “NICIL gifts Turkeyen land to China Railway.”
This article informed the nation that National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL) had given a plot of Turkeyen land to China Railway Engineering Group.
China Railway was considered as a key construction partner during discussions last year on the controversial Amaila Falls Hydro Project.
It was discovered, in the Official Gazette, that there was a double transfer of land at Turkeyen from the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission to NICIL which is headed by Winston Brassington. NICIL then transferred a plot of land to China Railway Guyana Incorporated with no cost attached.
Political leaders on the opposition side questioned this transfer asking why the engineering group was gifted the land as opposed to it being sold.
Harmon told Kaieteur News that the Chinese are astute business people and will always seek to invest. His contention is that they, as a people, cannot be blamed for wanting to invest. According to the Member of Parliament, the blame must be placed solely at the feet of the government.
He said it is imperative that the government establish a regulatory environment “because without it there will be all kinds of corruption, even in investments, like we have seen.”
The Member of Parliament reiterated that he has no problem with overseas investors but such investors must understand that their purpose is to invest and make money, not to take the country for free or buy over it cheaply.
“Foreigners are free to invest, but not take our country for free.”
He said that once there is firm regulatory body and a level playing field “all will be good and I would not have anything negative to say…But they (investors) must understand that they will not be allowed to just come and deal with some corrupt government officials and enjoy free and cheap benefits while the Guyanese people suffer.”
At the recent opening ceremony of the 17th meeting of the Council of Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Caricom Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque said that there is now a multiplicity of centres of power and influence.  The US remains a major, some may even argue, indispensable global actor. He pointed out that emerging from its economic stagnation, the EU remains another major centre of political and economic influence. He also noted that the influence of the BRICS, (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the global economic system is increasing along with their strategic weight.  “Among the BRICS, China is a rising global power, with a number of forecasts predicting that it could eventually overtake the USA as the most powerful global economic power.  It has been aggressively expanding its economic and financial outreach to various regions of the world, including Latin America and the Caribbean,” LaRocque pointed out.
For the last few years, China has maintained a heavy presence in Guyana and has been sealing some “attractive deals” as more of its nationals take up residence here.
But President Donald Ramotar said he is not worried about the amount of stakes China already has in Guyana. He told the media that Guyana needs investments and if one follows the trend around the world, one would notice that the Chinese seem to have capital available to drive the world’s economy. He disclosed as well that there was no think-tank group to determine if the projects being funded by China were good deals.
Guyana is significantly indebted to China and the country continues to borrow more.
Many nations that fell victim are now beginning to observe China’s strategy. As recent as a few weeks ago, this newspaper published an article that reflected what is happening in other jurisdictions.
The article, which first appeared in the New York Times, highlighted the shady deals and contracts “greased with monetary bribes and other enticements like expense-paid shopping trips to China and scholarships for elite children.”
It said that natives of Africa have realized the penalties of making certain deals and have begun to doubt that China has its interest in their well being.
The article noted, “The doubts aren’t coming from any soured feelings from African leaders themselves, most of whom still welcome (and profit from) China’s embrace.”
It also reflected that independent media have played an important role in demanding more scrutiny of government deals with Beijing”…A recent op-ed article in one of Kenya’s leading newspapers, The Daily Nation, questioned whether a huge new Chinese investment in a railroad that would run from the coast all the way to landlocked Uganda and beyond was truly a good deal. The project’s first phase will increase Kenya’s external debt by a third.” That railroad is the same one that President Ramotar referred to.
The New York Times article also noted that Kenya could have sought the financing for a project like this through the World Bank, which would have cost as little as a third of the Chinese commercial loan. But that would have required time-consuming processes, from competitive bidding to rigorous environmental and feasibility studies.
The crux of the problem, according to the New York Times, is (though not limited to China) the reliance on “shady arrangements made at the very top of the political system, often in the president’s office itself.”