September 29, 2016

Unbiased assessment of facts for issuance of productive forest

Dear Editor,
As a forester for three decades, I will agree with policy makers that Guyana’s forest resources belong to all the people of Guyana and it must be guarded and preserved for generations to come to provide sustenance for our indigenous people and further development of our beloved country.
Over the past few weeks I noted the much prominence given to Minister Raphael Trotman’s claim that all the productive forest was shared out under the previous government. There were a lot of figures floating around and numerous comments from some touted as experts and specialists in the fields of forestry and environment. However, a simple analysis from the Allocation of State Forest to Concession Holders will give a clear example of which government issued what.
One newspaper which has been very critical of the forestry sector stated “82% of large timber concessions granted to foreigners”. This can be very misleading when it is being suggested that the previous government shared out all productive forest. Be the judge of the facts:  Barama Company Ltd (1991) 1,601,653 hectares; Demerara Timbers Ltd (1991) 218,910 hectares; Demerara Timbers Ltd (1991) 297,343 hectares; Amcar (1990) 44,449 hectares.  2,162,355=47.5% of total allocated (4,548,613 ha) concessions issued to foreigners.
A Mazaharally & Sons (1985) 65,463 hectares; A Mazaharally & Sons (1985) 91,209 hectares; Ganesh Singh (1990) 33,244 hectares; Interior Forests Industries Inc (1985) 70,442 hectares; Toolsie Persaud Ltd (1985) 123,857 hectares; Willems Timbers & Trading (1985) 55,988 hectares; Willems Timbers & Trading (1985) 56,619 hectares; Nagasar Sawh Ltd (1985) 29,176 hectares. 525,998 = 11.5% of total (4,548,613 ha) concessions issued to locals. Grand total issued pre 1992 =2,688,353 = 59.1% of total (4,548,613) issued to both locals and foreigners. Table shows figures of allocations made prior 1992 extracted from the allocation of state forest concessions as published on the Guyana Forestry Commission’s website:
Simple calculations of the table above for foreign issuance of concessions under the PNC pre-1992 would reveal that 47.5% was issued to foreign companies of the total allocation of 4,548,613 hectares.
So I don’t see what the fuss is about when the current government as the PNC is guilty of the same crime as they are accusing the previous government of sharing out Guyana’s productive forest to foreigners. The facts are there but Minister Trotman and other so-called specialists and experts are deliberately neglecting to highlight or to do a comparison of concessions issued by the PPP/C against the PNC now APNU/AFC.
In fact, from my calculations the total concessions (foreign and local – 2,688,353 ha) which was issued pre-1992 accounted for 59.1% over the grand total of concessions to date (4,548,613 ha). So the contention that all of the productive forest was shared out under the previous government is just a ploy to cover-up what was already issued pre-1992.
In addition, further analysis of the complete breakdown on the allocation of State Forest to Concession Holders as on the Guyana Forestry Commission’s website: revealed that not 82% of stated forest was issued by the previous government but merely 53%. The facts are there but somehow the newspapers and the so-called experts find difficulty in highlighting this.
Editor, as a stakeholder within the forest sector I find this deliberate neglect of facts lacking in professionalism and transparency as efforts are continuously being made to paint the forest sector in a bad light which have rippling effects beyond our recognition.
Meanwhile I was hoping with anticipation the call for a debate on the forest sector be realised, maybe then and only then the Guyanese public would have gotten an opportunity to get all the facts and hoped that it would be appropriately published in the newspapers to keep the public informed of the true reality of Guyana’s forest.
As a stakeholder of the forest sector, I can proudly say that this is one of the most sustainably managed sectors in Guyana and it needs not the bashing it is currently receiving.

Sincerely,                                                                                      Terence Williams

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