January 5, 2011 issue

Guyana Focus


2011 challenging, unpredictable

Guyanese prone to anxiety disorders should probably stock up on nerve calming medication as they head into a challenging and unpredictable 2011. That’s because it will be a year in which both political and economic conditions will likely deteriorate – to the extent that could result in social chaos.
Without doubt, the most important event will be the country’s general elections, which promises to be full of surprises. Current President, Bharat Jagdeo, is not constitutionally eligible for re-election but the ruling PPP/C is yet to announce its Presidential candidate.

The grapevine indicates that leadership struggles within the party could lead to a change in the manner in which the candidate is selected. If certain PPP Central Committee members have their way, the secret ballot would be used for the first time to eliminate the possibility of victimization of those who do not vote for the anointed candidate.
If, on the other hand, the secret ballot is not used and the anointed candidate is selected by open vote, there could be massive divisions within the ruling party, putting pressure on its favored status to win the elections. Ironically, the PPP/C no longer has the charisma of a Jagan at its helm, leaving the party susceptible to infighting.
Incidentally, the PPP/C would benefit from the fact that it has no real competition heading into the elections. The main opposition, the PNC/R, is still struggling to get its act together, while the AFC has been all but abandoned by its former leader, Raphael Trotman, who was forced to hand over the reigns of leadership to Khemraj Ramjattan and who declined nomination as Prime Ministerial candidate. On the other hand, fringe parties have never been in the running for power in Guyana and pose little threat to the major parties.
The only real wild card is if the PPP/C stumbles, which is not impossible given current problems with one of its largest group of supporters, the country’s sugar workers; and the potential fallout from disagreements over the choice of the Presidential candidate. Regardless, when all is said and done, Guyanese will most likely re-elect the PPP/C, for the lack of a better alternative.
As elections draw near, tensions will increase but crime is not expected to escalate as with elections prior to 2006, which were the most peaceful ever. However, isolated incidents of serious crime are not unexpected. As always, racial tensions would increase but will be restricted to selected individuals who will be bent on creating strife.
At the macro-economic level, the economy, which has shown substantial resilience in the wake of the severe downturn in the developed world, would be hurt by potential underperformance of the sugar industry, fuelled by growing antagonism between the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) and the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU).
Although threats to de-recognize GAWU have fizzled, it is evident that all is not well in the country’s largest industry, whose workers are largely supporters of the ruling PPP/C. Conditions could worsen in 2011 with plans by the government to acquire cane harvesting equipment to replace manual labour. This indirect attack on workers, if it materializes, could precipitate an industry-wide shutdown. Although mechanical harvesting might be more cost-effective, it is believed that there is insufficient acreage under sugar-cane cultivation to warrant the use of mechanical harvesters.
Continuing problems at the supposedly modern Skeldon factory would also hurt the industry. GAWU has asked the government to temporarily shut down the Chinese-built Skeldon factory in order to repair mechanical defects. In turn, the government has penalized the state-owned China National Technical Import and Export Corporation for the problems at the factory, which is operating way below capacity. It is not expected that the factory would come anywhere close to operating at full capacity, in spite of expectations to the contrary by government and GUYSUCO officials.
In other sectors, rice, mining (gold and diamonds) and agriculture as a whole should continue to do well in 2011. Increased foreign investments in the mining sector should lead to an increase in production, especially in gold whose price keeps breaking new highs, while non traditional agriculture should gain ground on expanded production.
Bauxite, on the other hand, would continue to struggle. The face-off between the government and the Russian-owned company, Rusal, which runs the Berbice operations, could spark industry-wide labour unrest. Rusal’s termination of its agreement with the bauxite union marked a new twist on union relations in the country – with GUYSUCO threatening to take similar action against GAWU.
While the country’s unions are often out to lunch, they still have sufficient power to disrupt the economy in 2011, especially if political conditions play in their favour in an election year.
Efforts at modernizing the traditional productive sectors and promoting the development of new and emerging sectors will remain on the drawing board. In reality, there will be no significant new developments in the traditional or the new and emerging sectors.
Oil exploration will continue but there will be no major finds. Disappointment over the sector which showed much promise two years ago will heighten and hope will not return until major capital investments come to fruition in the sector.
The commencement of the Amalia Falls project, which appeared ill-fated from the start, would depend of the availability of funding – which would most likely be unavailable in 2011. However, this was a past election promise and politics can make strange things happen, particularly if it can secure votes.
In the meanwhile, plans to develop the alternative energy sector, which was high priority a couple of years ago, will remain subdued due to a lack of funding and real government commitment.
Talks about the much touted Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) will remain a pipe dream. If Norway ever comes up with any promised funding, it will be less than what was committed.
Corruption will remain pervasive in Guyana; and so will the drug trade. The government will remain handcuffed by a lack of resources to deal with these twin vices and accusations of party funding by the drug trade for the 2011 general elections would emerge.
Private businesses would continue to do well on the back of an abundance of opportunities. The underground economy, which accounts for almost 60% of the real economy, would continue to flourish, robbing government coffers of much-needed revenues and perpetuating the widening of the “rich-poor gap”. Remittances from abroad would decline, aggravating the burden of those who depend on this source of funding.
In spite of challenges and uncertainties, Guyana would remain resilient. A new President would have a tough time emulating the high-handed attitude of Jagdeo and could quickly find himself in trouble with opposition forces. Tact and diplomacy do not necessarily work in Guyana. Neither do co-operation, dialogues and collaboration with opposition forces – which would be forced upon the ruling party.
Yet hope will prevail in a country whose population has become accustomed to momentarily seeing the light on the horizon only to watch it disappear and re-appear as time goes by. This year, though, a lot of nerves would be frazzled.


Two new ferries, gift of the Chinese govt
Signing ceremony at the office of Robeson Benn

Georgetown — Government on Monday last signed contracts with the Chinese Government that will pave the way for two brand new ferries for the Essequibo routes before next year end.
The US$14M boats, similar to the Makouria class vessels and of the Canaiwaima size, have been described as a New Year’s gift by the local Chinese Embassy.
According to Minister of Transport, Robeson Benn, at the signing at his Kingston office, the two new ferries will supplement the current fleet that are operating in Essequibo where it increasingly has shown that there is a huge demand for the vessels.
The two new vessels are being built under a Chinese grant and could be here earlier than the 2011 year-end timeline given.
Benn explained that with the redeployment of two ferries from the Berbice River to Essequibo, following the construction of the Berbice Bridge, it was at first thought that the increased fleet would handle the demand in that latter area.
However, even a twice-a-week Bartica run is showing increasing demand with clear evidence that the vessel there is working in a capacity-filled situation.
The new vessels will come equipped with roll-on/roll-off features that would necessitate the modifications of the stellings at Parika and Supenaam to allow for this feature. Currently, the Supenaam stelling is closed because of problems to the ramp, but authorities signaled their intention to commission the facility with the modifications way before the vessels arrive.
Also at the signing were Prime Minister, Sam Hinds, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Chinese Ambassador to Guyana, Yu Wenzhe and his Commercial Officer, Huang Shaowen.
According to the Ambassador, the vessels could be considered a Christmas and New Year’s gift to the people of Guyana, a country which over the years has seen lots of cooperation between the two nations. The ferries will also be a significant improvement for the lives of the people of Essequibo, especially farmers.
The Prime Minister echoed sentiments about the growing relationship between China and Guyana and urged that instead of the 12-month construction time, that the vessels be completed even by mid-year.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said that the negotiations were ongoing for some time now and are part of long line of cooperation with the Chinese. Other gifts, courtesy of the Chinese Government, include the Skeldon factory and International Convention Centre. She noted that Guyana had developed relations with China since 1972 and this relationship has grown from strength to strength since then.

Gold production expected to surpass last year’s

Georgetown — When the final figures are released it is expected that gold production for 2010 would have surpassed the previous year’s figure of 300,000 ounces. As of December 27, 2010 gold production stood at around 294,000 ounces, still 17,000 ounces away from the target of 311,000 ounces for 2010.
The Guyana Gold Board was reportedly expecting significant declarations from some medium-scale producers which should boost the final figures. With gold prices at an all time high this has been acting as an added incentive for producers to up their production.
Despite a midyear slump in production due to a severe dry spell followed by heavy rains, Acting President of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), Charles DaSilva, said he was confident that Guyana would achieve its production target, adding “We have been encouraging our members to make their declarations early to the Gold Board and yes, it looks good.”
However, the surge in gold production has led to a reduction in diamond production as mining activities shifted away from diamond resulting in a 59.5 percent decline in declaration at the half-year point.
The heavy rains in the May/June period saw work opportunities reduced drastically by up to 15%. With the roads in a bad way there were problems with access to mining areas. In addition sections of the pits flooded out for some time leading to further disruptions.
Executive Director of the GGDMA, Edward Shields, had said that he hoped that miners would take full advantage of the high price of gold and capitalize on it. He noted that this is an opportune time for profit and it would also allow for the country to get more value for the production.
The association had stressed that it wanted to see declarations increase, noting that for every 1,000 ounces sold the government earns almost $17 million in royalties and taxes.
The GGDMA had set an ambitious gold production target of over 400,000 ounces for 2010.
The target for 2011 has not yet been announced.


GuySuCo to sell 1,000 acres of land at Diamond

Georgetown — The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the Central Housing and Planning Authority were expected to finalise an agreement between the two entities last week in relation to the sale of 1,000 acres of land in the Diamond tract on the East Bank of Demerara for about $2B.
The land sale would facilitate a bailout of cash-strapped GuySuCo which is currently in debt to the tune of billions of dollars and facing serious production problems.
The National Assembly recently approved the appropriation of several billion dollars to various entities, with more than $3B heading to the Ministry of Housing and Water. According to Kaieteur News the sum of $2B is for the land purchase.
Last January the National Assembly had approved supplementary expenditures for some monies expended toward the end of 2009 which included some $4B for a similar scenario where the company had to dispose of some land to access funds.
At the last sitting of the National Assembly, Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud had indicated that the Government would continue to assist GuySuCo, stressing that the industry is critical to the country’s development.
The Minister said that the company faces several significant challenges which are not only unique to Guyana but “we have seen a genuine commitment to ensure that steps be taken to guarantee the sustainability of the industry.”
He stated that one the steps taken by the government to alleviate the situation is the termination of Booker Tate and the reshuffling of management.


GDF Major and wife charged with treason

Georgetown — Andrew Bruce Munroe, a serving Major in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), his wife Carol-Ann Munroe, the proprietrix of a private school, and Leonard Wharton, former GDF army reserve officer, were arrested on Christmas Eve last and charged with plotting to depose the President and Government of Guyana.
The police stated that their arrests followed a year-long investigation.
The heavily shackled trio appeared before Acting Chief Magistrate Priya Beharry at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court to answer the charge of treason. They were not required to plead since the charge was indictable.
It is alleged that between December 1, 2009 and December 16, 2010, at the Soesdyke/Linden Highway, the trio intended to levy war within Guyana to force the President out of his office in order to compel the government of Guyana to change its measure, further to depose the President.
The accused were represented by attorneys-at-law Gregory Gaskin, Nigel Hughes, George Thomas and Trenton Lake.
Police Prosecutor, Assistant Superintendent, Fazil Karimbaksh, said that police investigations revealed that the three were trying to recruit and give instructions to a gang to cause mayhem in Guyana. However, Defence Attorney, Gregory Gaskin, told the court that based on the facts presented to the defence the charge amounts to nothing more than a case of arson.
Despite a petition by the defence lawyer for an early date for the commencement of the preliminary inquiry, prosecutor Karimbaksh told the court that the earliest date requested by the prosecution would be two months.
Magistrate Beharry fixed January 7, next, for the next court appearance. She also said that on that date, the court would fix a date for the commencement of the preliminary inquiry.
The number of persons charged with treason under this government has now risen to five. The others were Mark Benschop and Philip Bynoe both of whom have been pardoned by President Jagdeo. They were charged following the storming of the presidential complex in 2002. Benschop spent five years in prison while Bynoe was on the run and was never brought to court although charged.
Carol-Ann Munroe, a mother of three, is the first woman to have been charged with treason.


GPSU gives govt ultimatum for wage talks
Georgetown — The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the country’s main bargaining union for public servants, has given the government a one-month ultimatum on December 23, 2010, to restart wage negotiations .
At a press conference, the GPSU also registered its disagreement with what it described as an “arbitrary” across-the-board increase of 5% handed down earlier last month. The union also questioned whether the existing labour agreement has been annulled and called for a stated government position regarding collective bargaining and trade union rights. The union stressed that for 10 years now the government has not given an increase in keeping with established negotiation practices but rather announced it arbitrarily.
According to GPSU President Patrick Yarde, the issue of “imposition” of salary increases is not an isolated one, as this “provocation” has been taking place for over ten years. He said “This act flouts the Constitution of Guyana, the collective bargaining agreements between the Government and the union, which are legally binding and international labour conventions."
Yarde stressed that blatant disregard and scant courtesy have been shown to members of the business community, constitutional institutions, other unions and organizations, resident diplomatic missions, international agencies, citizens and even court orders.
“So, clearly, what is taking place is in essence an abuse of authority. This is fundamentally a governance problem, which translates into a national problem, which, in turn, requires a national response,” the union leader said.
He made clear reference to the 57-day strike action taken by the union in 1999.
“While public servants bore the brunt of that struggle, we entrusted the responsibility of mediating an end to the strike to civil society, namely the Guyana Council of Churches, the Guyana Bar Association, the Private Sector Commission and the Trades Union Congress.”
That group was able to hammer out an agreement that included the payment of an interim 25% across-the-board increase. The subsequent Armstrong Arbitration Tribunal awarded public servants 31.09% and 26.6% for years 1999 and 2000 respectively.
He noted that with the exception of the interim payments and awarded increases in salaries, all other aspects of the agreements have not been honoured by the Government.
The union said it has since sent off a letter that it stands ready to take “any and all actions” to defend and secure the rights of its members.
“We believe that a government should lead by example and that it should act in good faith. We believe that they should conduct themselves in keeping with the spirit and intent of the laws of Guyana. This has not been the case, and it has to be corrected.”
Yarde called for the backings of citizens to lead a charge for improved governance and accountability by the Government. GPSU officials said that they are “disgusted” with the manner with which collective bargaining and trade union rights are treated within the public sector, stating “We are offended with the manner in which the career, conditions of service and welfare of public servants are treated. There seems to be a new classification for those who labour in the public service, from PS for ‘Public Servants’ to PS for ‘Public Slaves.’”
Yarde vowed to bring an end to this “abuse” and said that the union is prepared to strike in solidarity with all law-abiding citizens for the achievement of good governance.
The union called on government to stop the “imposition of unilateral annual wages and salaries awards” and to “respect the collective bargaining process by negotiations on our proposals for increases in wages and salaries and allowances for 2010, 2011 and 2012.”
Post Office safe torched

Georgetown — Thieves using a blow torch burglarized the safe at the Mahaica Post Office last Monday and escaped $586,000 which was to be used to pay pensioners.
The Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) said pension payments and other normal operations at the facility were disrupted as a result of the theft. Public Relations Officer of the Corporation, Yolaskee Jervis said that the corporation expressed regret for any inconvenience caused and wished to further assure the public that it remained committed to providing its usual services in an environment that is comfortable to both the public and its staff.
Police officials disclosed that the burglary appeared to have been carried out by individuals with an in-depth knowledge of the building. It was further revealed that a huge hole was made in the floor of the building to allow access to the interior of the building.
Up to press time no one was held in connection with the burglary.


Bandit shoots shop owner
Georgetown — Albert Joseph, a businessman from Linden, was shot in the abdomen and left side last Monday, by a bandit who demanded cash.
The well known owner of Bolo’s Variety and Furniture Store on Sunflower Street in Wismar, was sitting outside his store when a man approached him and demanded money. Joseph responded that he did not have any money but the man insisted and when Joseph put his hands in his pocket to get the money the bandit shot him. The bandit apparently thought that Joseph was going to pull his gun. Joseph’s daughter Lauren who was in the cashier booth witnessed the whole incident. She said her father gave the bandit the money he had in his pocket which amounted to about $10,000 and his gold chain even after he was shot.
Joseph was a licensed firearm holder but did not have his gun on him at the time.
He is recovering at the Linden Hospital and is in stable condition.
The suspect is still at large, according to reports, and efforts are being made to retrieve the images of the robbery on the store’s surveillance cameras to determine his identity.
Murder suicide at Tuschen

Georgetown — Amrit Mohan, of Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo, was found by the police, hanging from a sheet under a tree in his backyard last Monday after allegedly stabbing his wife to death. Police reportedly retrieved a knife that was believed to have been used in the stabbing death as well as a cell phone belonging to the killer.
Mohan, who returned from Trinidad last Thursday, reportedly murdered his common-law wife Saleema “Sally” Mohan, 21. The victim was said to have been a teacher at an Islamic school at Meet-en-Meer-Zorg.
Mohan had earlier sent the family an ominous text message that he had finished praying for her.
According to Parbattie Ramdat, mother of the dead woman, her daughter recently ended a tumultuous relationship with her reputed husband. The couple had married two years ago and lived in Tuschen, until Mohan decided to visit Trinidad three months ago. But the teacher decided to end the relationship after her partner continuously threatened her over the phone.


Cop faces bribery charge

Georgetown — Cletus Azeem, 37, a policeman who was charged with collecting inducement was granted bail to the sum of $50,000
It is alleged that on November 2, last, being an agent of the Government, Azeem obtained from Natasha Jones the sum of $40,000 as an inducement or reward to forego prosecuting Kenroy Cadogan.
Azeem has been a serving member of the Guyana Police Force for over eight years.


Man set alight by bandits
Georgetown — Felix Nichols, 74, a native of St Lucia, who is a nationalised Guyanese, suffered third degree burns to the face after being set alight last Friday by two men who came to him asking for employment.
According to Kaieteur News (KN) Nichols, who was alone at the worksite, was approached by two men who asked him for something to eat and if he was hiring. Nichols told the men that business was closed for the season and there was no vacancy.
However, Nichols had just turned his back when the two men attacked him. They tied him with a rope, pulled out a can of Baygon and sprayed it on him, then threw a lighted match on him. Nichols was engulfed in flames and was discovered minutes later by some of his employees who had turned up at the worksite. .
His condition has been listed as stable; he is receiving medical attention at a city private hospital. His attackers are still at large.
Ranks open fire on minibus

Georgetown — Nine-year-old Akila Niyal, a passenger in a mini bus, was shot in her right instep after police opened fire on a vehicle that was allegedly transporting a large quantity of marijuana on the West Bank Demerara.
According to reports, sometime around noon, last Sunday, acting on information received, police set up a road block at Nismes with the intention to stop the minibus. However, according to Commander of ‘D’ Division, Balram Persaud, upon seeing the roadblock, the route 31 minibus, which was heading towards the Demerara Harbour Bridge, changed course to avoid being searched by the ranks.
Persaud said the minibus was then pursued by a mobile patrol unit as the information provided to the police suggested that there was narcotics in the minibus.
Reports state that ranks were forced to shoot at the mini bus after it refused to stop. The ranks reportedly tried to shoot at the wheel but the bullet went through the door and struck the child in the vehicle. The child was rushed to the West Demerara Regional Hospital and subsequently transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital where she was treated and sent away.


Car washer shot, killed

Georgetown — Sean Craig, 28, a car washer of Stanleytown, New Amsterdam, was shot and killed at around 12:30 am on New Year’s Day following a hold up at a Gas Station. Craig’s friend and fellow car washer Wade Mc Donald, 42, was gun butted and received a graze from a bullet in the head and had to be treated at the New Amsterdam Hospital.
Police stated that the proprietor of the Service Station, Michael Mars and his wife Joan, were in the supermarket area when they were held up by a man armed with a handgun.
The man took away a bag containing $500,000 just as Sean Craig and Wade McDonald entered the supermarket to make a purchase.
According to the police, the bandit confronted the two customers and dealt McDonald a blow to his head with the firearm and then shot Sean Craig. The bandit then made good his escape with the loot.


Man shot defending home
Georgetown — Robert Rampersaud, 45, of Grove, East Bank Demerara, was shot and injured to his right leg on New Year’s morning when he confronted three men who entered his home. One of the men was armed with a handgun when they attacked and robbed the family.
The men broke and entered the home through a window sometime between 3:30 am to 4:00 am and held up the family and took away a quantity of silver jewellery and two cell phones. During the robbery Rampersaud attacked them with a cutlass and was shot.
He has since been admitted a patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.
Flights of locally owned airlines to US restricted
Georgetown — With the US labeling Guyana under Category Two, Guyana would not be able to have a locally owned airline operation flying to the United States of America.
However, at least two airlines, Wings Aviation and FlyGT Airline, have applications in in process and are hoping to fly directly to the US at some time in the future. FlyGT Airline is owned by a number of former Guyana Airways Corporation (GAC) pilots.
Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Zulficar Mohamed, at a year-end press conference last week, said that for Guyana to regain the Category One status, which it held under GAC several years ago, more regulations and training to meet US standards will have to be done. He noted that Guyana may have to spend in excess of $200M to regain the status. Mohamed added that for the US to give the green light for a Category One status to Guyana, it may take at least a year. But this does not mean that the local airlines could not fly regionally in the meantime.
Meanwhile, Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, whose portfolio includes aviation, said government is examining the issue but it was unclear whether anything would change this year under the budget which is due out next month.
Already authorities have started work to correct some of the shortcomings including laws. But Guyana is short on flight operation inspectors with GCAA forced to turn to other regional countries for help through the Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System (CASSOS).
Mohamed said that the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) conducted audits in Guyana during last year and while there were no immediate major concerns, some improvements were recommended. He said almost $900M is being spent to upgrade the almost obsolete equipment at CJIA and Ogle Airport. These include the installation of a Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Radio Range (VOR), new installation landing systems, the rehabilitation of the control tower and electrical system, among other things.
In 2009, several training sessions that included search and rescue were held with the industry acquiring six air traffic controllers who recently graduated.
In terms of new applications, in addition to Wings Aviation and FlyGT, local operators including Air Services Limited and Trans Guyana Aviation were approved for more caravans with Oxford Aviation being approved to conduct flights locally.
There were also no fatalities but there was one aircraft that sustained a broken wheel on landing.
In addition, 54 local aerodromes along with six government-owned facilities were certified, the GCAA official disclosed.
Small farmers to benefit from $200M credit facility
Georgetown — A $220M credit programme targeting small farmers countrywide was launched last Monday. This is part of Government’s plans to revamp the agricultural industry even further with more training and financing.
Almost $180M of the fund which is a collaborative effort between Guyana and the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will be given out in grants to groups involved in the production of plantains, pumpkins, peppers, pineapples, tubers, small ruminants and swine.
The funds will be disbursed under strict loan-like conditions by the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED), which will only work with farmers who have banded into groups in Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Ten.
Studies have shown that financing remained one of the major hurdles for agricultural development in Guyana with local banks shying away from the industry which is plagued with uncertainties. A prohibitively high interest rate remained another major deterrent to farmers.
At the launch of the programme which was held at the Regency Hotel, Hadfield Street, Robert Persaud, Minister of Agriculture, disclosed that the programme is part of the larger one to strengthen the agricultural industry. He said that later this year, Government will be rolling out a similar programme to target medium scale farmers involved in the non-traditional agricultural sector. Other future programmes will be focusing on the hinterland regions.
The importance of agriculture was underscored when it was pointed out that some $4B were spent regionally on food imports with countries within the Caricom doing little to remove the burdensome non-tariff barriers or taxes that are stymieing exports to neighbouring countries.
Guyana seems to be one of the few countries taking steps to move in a food security and food sovereignty direction. But if local farmers are to compete, they will have to change their tactics and adjust their operations to meet the demands of the 21st century with new technologies, training and a professional approach to managing part of the mandate.
Minister Persaud pointed out that there is not a problem of land in Guyana as there is an estimated 300,000 acres on the coastlands and another two million acres in the Rupununi area, allaying any fears that the country’s forests would be encroached on.
Later this year, Government will be rolling out more support programmes including $260M on genetic improvements for small animals. This credit facility is part of the US$6.9M Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Development project (READ) launched a year ago and expected to conclude in 2014.
Fires at East Coast primary schools: arson suspected
Georgetown — The arson attempt at the Enterprise Primary School, in Lincoln Street, Enterprise, East Coast Demerara early last Sunday morning, seemed to have affected the school attendance on the first day of the New Year when only 409 pupils of the 1,041 on register showed up for classes. However, all the teachers turned out.
Police, last Sunday, said they were probing a fire which occurred at about 4:00 am and damaged the school building. The flames were seen by security guards on duty and extinguished by residents who formed a bucket brigade, leaving some damage.
Two plastic containers, with dieselene, were found at the scene.
Investigators are hoping to lift prints from the containers they retrieved from the scene as they try to ascertain who was responsible for the fire.
Police ‘C’ Division Commander, Assistant Commissioner Gavin Primo said, so far, no one has been arrested in connection with the crime.
Reports are that several villagers were playing their music loudly and the Police were summoned. It is suspected that, after the noisy systems were shut down by the lawmen, the revellers, in drunken rage, torched the school.
Meanwhile at around 7:20 pm the same evening security guards at the Annandale Primary School a few miles away also had to use buckets to put out a fire that was started there. Police recovered a small bottle containing what appeared to be gasoline at the scene.
The damage at this school was much less than that at Enterprise Primary as the guards spotted the fire early and were able to put it out quickly.
The two incidents have forced police in collaboration with security personnel at schools along the East Coast of Demerara to step up their vigilance.
GuySuCo’s 2010 production lowest since 1991
Georgetown — The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has prematurely closed its second crop of 2010 at approximately 220,826 tonnes due to the low turnout of cane harvesters for the final week of the year, despite experiencing exceedingly good weather for harvesting. When those factories which are in the final stages of production make their final declaration the figure will increase slightly. The production for 2010 will be the lowest the company has recorded since 1991. Production for 2009 was marginally above 233,000 tonnes.
A press release from the corporation stated that the attendance record beginning from December 27th 2010 was as follows: Monday – Nil; Tuesday – 11 percent; Wednesday - 15 percent; Thursday - 12 percent; Friday – Nil.
The release added: “The Corporation was keen on continuing its grinding operations until January 7, 2011. This was mainly due to the large amount of cane still in the fields to be harvested and the fact that each tonne of sugar produced will realise desperately needed cash for the industry.” The release continued: “However, with attendance averaging 7.6 percent for the past five days, it is most uneconomical to continue our operations.”
“The Corporation looks forward to a much more positive stance from the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union in the new year and would rather ignore its unfortunate attempts to justify the negative effects of the 250 strikes for 2010 on the final production figures of the industry,” said GuySuCo.
Booker Tate sues GuySuCo for unpaid fees
Georgetown — Booker Tate Limited, former managers of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), is suing the company in excess of £664,000 (G$208M) for unpaid fees.
According to Kaieteur News (KN) two separate actions were filed against GuySuCo on September 30 last by attorney Nigel Hughes, local lawyer for the UK-based sugar consultant.
And in a counter action on December 20 last, GuySuCo said it was counter-suing because Booker Tate had mismanaged the industry, especially regarding the supervision of the new Skeldon factory which has not been performing to expectations.
In its suit, Booker Tate claimed that in March 2004, it had entered into agreement with GuySuCo to provide corporate management services until December 2005, and this arrangement was expected to be extended six months after the handing over of the Skeldon factory to GuySuCo. Booker Tate is claiming that it executed its contractual obligations but GuySuCo failed to pay them £224,349.94 (G$70M) in outstanding fees.
However, in August last year, GuySuCo terminated the corporate services agreement and replaced it with a technical services contract. GuySuCo had also agreed to release Booker Tate from its obligations under the corporate services agreement with effect from April 1st, 2009.
In its first action Booker Tate claims that several requests for the outstanding payments were made to GuySuCo but to no avail and in February last, its lawyers again wrote the Company demanding payments without success.
In their second action, Booker Tate is claiming in excess of £345,000 (G$108M) from the agreement entered between the two parties in August 2004. In addition the UK company also made claims for £94,811.77 (G$30M) that was owed for an agreement made on August 6th, 2004.
In its statement of claims for these sums, Booker Tate explained that according to the August 2004 agreement GuySuCo had committed to pay a fixed project management fee for the Skeldon factory construction to the tune of £2,425,284 ($757M) plus reimbursable expenses and costs for over £834,000 (G$260M).
Booker Tate maintains that it duly provided GuySuCo with the services expected of the agreement and issued 29 invoices for payments between January 27th, 2009 and February 28th, 2010 for a sum £345,589.20 (G$108M) which GuySuCo failed to honour. The plaintiffs said that in December 2009, it informed GuySuCo of its intentions to terminate the agreement within 14 days but still got no payments from the Corporation.
However, the UK-based consultant said it received an email dated February 22, 2010, in which GuySuCo terminated the Project Management Agreement and said that the services of the engineer were no longer needed. But Booker Tate said it responded to GuySuCo pointing out that the termination was in violation of the terms of their agreement and rejected it.
Booker Tate disclosed that on March 4th last, it presented a full and comprehensive “Hand Over Report” of the Skeldon factory project and demanded that the Corporation pay up the outstanding sums.
But following the handing over the Skeldon Factory, GuySuCo terminated the contracts of several consultants including Skeldon engineer, Paul Hough, a Booker Tate representative.
GuySuCo is laying blame on Booker Tate for a number of crucial flaws at the Skeldon Factory including that of a diffuser system and cane dumper.
CJIA achieves record revenue and arrivals in 2010
Georgetown — The Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Guyana’s main port of entry, has achieved its highest revenue on record when it raked in $635M in 2010. The airport also showed a five percent increase in traffic over 2009 as it moved 226,000 passengers in 2010.
At a press conference held last Friday, the airport’s Chief Executive Officer, Ramesh Ghir said $340M was expended to cover operating costs leaving CJIA with a net gain at least $36M more than 2009.
Said Ghir: “The year just concluded was a good one in many ways for the airport. Not only was the facility able to establish its own security team, employing 21 persons, but several security features, including up-front screening for passengers and baggage, an improvement for passengers who from time to time complained that their personal luggage was tampered with.”
Ghir added that in addition to increasing collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs to increase security in light of new regulations, the facilities also brought in experts to examine its detectors and other screening equipment and some recommendations for improvements made. The experts, though, were largely satisfied with the current operations, he said. The airport aerodrome license was also renewed following inspections by the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority and the US transportation authorities. Last year a $300M taxiway and apron with a new car park booth were also commissioned.
However, a project to line the airport with several display screens on flight information at strategic locations as well as a number of Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE) which allows passengers to check in themselves, experienced some delays. However, the project is expected to be commissioned within the next three months, Ghir said.
In terms of concessions, Roti Hut, a pilot and crew lounge for Roraima Airways and Kings Jewelry World established airport lounges with new seating for visitors.
During this year, the airport is hoping to introduce baggage carts that passengers can use for a fee.
The country was also rated as a Category Two which would not allow locally owned aircrafts to fly into the USA.
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