Dear Editor,The current state of affairs necessitates a restatement of certain facts pertaining to the current materialisation of job opportunities via several major investments and projects in Guyana.With over 30,000 jobs lost over almost four years under the APNU/AFC coalition Government, the question must be asked: What has the coalition done to stimulate job creation in Guyana? What investments produced job creation that Guyanese have benefited from recently?In dealing with the latter first, hundreds of Guyanese have benefited from job opportunities that have been created as a result of work done by the former People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Government.In the area of projects, work on the East Coast Demerara Road and the West Coast Demerara Road, are only two of the major projects that stimulated job creation.Incentivised multimillion-dollar investment deals negotiated by the PPP/C, which also stimulated job creation, include:*First BauxiteCorporation;* Reunion Manganese;* Guyana Goldfields;* Troy Resources;* Teleperformance;* Qualfon;* Santa Fe Farm;* Guyana Marriott HotelGeorgetown;* Texila AmericanUniversity;* Giftland Mall; and* MovieTowne.Editor, the opening of MovieTowne took place on Thursday, March 15, 2019, and to my surprise, four APNU/AFC coalition Government Ministers graced the event with their presence. Editor, this is the same project that was met with delays because of the APNU/AFC coalition. The headlines that made the news a few months ago were clear: “Foreign Investor blames Government for delay in MovieTowne opening” (June 12, 2018 – Newsroom); “MovieTowne owner decries red tape in US$40 million Turkeyen investment” (June 13, 2018 – Kaieteur News); and “Gov’t ordered to pay TPL $1.7 billion in damages over Turkeyen land” (April 21, 2019 – Stabroek News). Yet, Ministers Joseph Harmon, Winston Jordan, Carl Greenidge, and Dominic Gaskin all talked up the investment during Thursday’s opening. Is the coalition Government not shameless?I have to also point out that the land sale on which MovieTowne was built – an investment that is now being talked up by the coalition – is the same land deal that former Minister, Ashni Singh and former National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Head, Winston Brassington were charged for. Will the charges now be dropped since top coalition Government Ministers now tout the merits of the investment?Editor, I also must point out that in addition to the projects that were envisioned and started by the former PPP/C Government, as well as the investments that were successfully pursued, the coalition Government inherited over US$500 million in concessional resources secured to finance development initiatives, including:* US$130 million from China Exim Bank to construct a new international airport;* US$66.2 million from Inter-American Deve-lopment Bank to fund a road network upgrade and expansion project;* US$64.6 million from Inter-American Deve-lopment Bank and European Union to fund a power utility upgrade programme;* US$50 million from India Exim Bank to fund the East Coast to East Bank bypass road – a project that has not even stared as yet;* US$34.4 million from the Caribbean Development Bank to fund the West Coast Demerara highway upgrade project;* US$31.7 million from Inter-American Deve-lopment Bank and European Union to fund a water and sanitation infrastructure improvement project;* US$15 million from Inter-American Deve-lopment Bank for a new citizen security project;* US$12 million from the World Bank for a flood risk management project;* US$10 million from the World Bank for a new secondary education improvement project;* US$10 million from the World Bank for the UG science and technology support project; and* US$7.5 million from the Caribbean Development Bank to fund a sugar industry mechanisation project.All of these developments provide ample testimony to the stewardship of the Guyanese economy discharged by successive PPP/C Governments and the strong position of the economy, as the PPP/C demitted office.Even Guyana’s burgeoning oil and gas sector was the vision of the PPP/C. ExxonMobil came to Guyana under the PPP/C. Oil was found in Guyana under the PPP/C.Editor, returning to the first question I asked – What has the coalition done to stimulate job creation in Guyana? –The answer is clear. Nothing. There has been no major new project to stimulate job creation. There has been no major new foreign direct investment to stimulate job creation. Their policies have resulted in the loss of jobs. The David Granger-led coalition Government is bereft of ideas and have instead advanced initiatives that were envisioned and started by the former PPP/C coalition Government.The coalition Government, for almost four years, have busied themselves untying bows and cutting ribbons on PPP/C gifts.With the increasing likelihood of the APNU/AFC coalition Government being illegal after March 21, 2019, the resultant increase in loss of jobs is to be expected, as is the deleterious impact on the local economy.Sincerely,Dr Peter Ramsaroop
…admits no concrete plans outlined for usageThe Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has reportedly collected close to $1.2 billion in environmental taxes as at the end of 2017, but no specific usage has been earmarked for this new tax, nor has a fund been set up for it to be deposited into.Finance Minister Winston JordanThis is according to Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who has said the environmental tax is not an “earmarked tax.”The minister recently told Guyana Times that even if Government were to collect the entire $1.2 billion of that money, it would be used for various reasons. Jordan said this tax only adds to the total revenue that is collected on an annual basis and used for multiple development projects.“There is no environmental fund which these taxes are put into and the fund has specific uses. What we have is an environmental tax designed to not destroy the environment and to discourage certain types of consumption. And that money now, since it’s gone into the Consolidated Fund, is in the wash,” he said.Jordan explained that the $400 million given in subsidies to City Hall could be described as money used towards an environmental cause, but the money did not necessarily come from a specific fund set up to collect the environmental tax and used only for environmental purposes.“When we have enough money to put into a fund and do specific things in the environment, we will do that,” he explained.The minister said some people are under the impression that all taxes collected by Government through the GRA are massive sums, but in actuality this does not cater for everything.He said the country has never had a balanced budget, wherein revenues are just equal to, or greater than, expenditure.“When I presented the last budget, and I’ll tell you again: despite all the revenue projections we have made for 2018 budget, we still have to borrow a net amount of in excess of $40 billion. So even if we were to collect the $1.2 billion this year — which we are budgeting to collect — until we can improve revenue collection and different sources of financing, and until our expenditure can plateau, we will always have deficit budgets. And to answer (the query): the environmental tax is not an earmarked tax.”GRA Commissioner General Godfrey Statia told this newspaper recently that since implementation of this tax, some progress has been seen in recycling and re-exporting of bottles, something that had never happened in the past.The Commissioner General noted also that there has been a substantial reduction in plastic being used by local manufacturers; because “the GRA has a way in which we check the weight and so on,” he explained.“And there is at least one company other than Banks DIH that recycles their plastic, and we give them a credit for what is recycled. It has been helping in a major way,” he posited.The new environmental tax was implemented by the GRA with effect from February 1, 2017. A fee of $10 per bottle on non-returnable containers is being charged.However, even as Government rakes in millions from this tax, environmental analysts are worried that not much is being done to ensure that Guyana’s environment remains pristine. This concern arose since no concrete plan has been outlined by Government on how this money would be used for proper environmental management.The levy, which accords with amendments to Section 7A (1) of the Customs Act, Chapter 82:01, became applicable to non-returnable units imported, locally manufactured, or produced in Guyana.The Customs Act provides for the levy to be charged on every non-returnable unit of metal, plastic or glass container of any alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage or water, whether imported, locally manufactured, or produced in Guyana.The levy also applies to the said products whether they are imported and not warehoused, or imported and removed from a warehouse, factory, bond or other place of storage.Exports, on the other hand, are exempt from the environmental levy.The law outlines that any person who fails to pay the levy would, upon summary conviction, be liable to a fine of $50,000 together with a sum of twice the amount of the levy payable.