Scrap metal trade
expected to reopen in November
After months of being mum on closure of the scrap metal trade, Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin has affirmed that the trade will be reopened in November, along with the completion of comprehensive reforms, which was suggested by an auditing firm in 2015.
Gaskin stated that in an attempt to expedite the reopening of the trade, the ministry began developing a proposal in consultation with the organisation, however when the proposal was taken to Cabinet for approval on April 5, 2016 it was deferred to accommodate wider consultations.
He stated that consultations were held on April 15 and 22 and on July 19 and that the Guyana Metal Recyclers’ Association (GMRA) was involved in each consultation, as were other stakeholders.
In 2015, Ram and McRae produced a forensic audit report, revealing a string of irregularities, including the mishandling of packing procedures for scrap and the expenditure of millions of dollars in the Scrap Metal Unit within the Central Housing and Planning Authority.
Also last year, the government removed the responsibility of the trade from the Central Housing and Planning Authority to the Ministry of Business.
“As you are aware, these reforms include legislative amendments, new regulations and the application of smart solutions in monitoring the trade,” Gaskin stated, noting that a proposal will be made to Cabinet within two weeks and so until such time he cannot commit to a date for trading to resume.
He said the ministry has not sit idly by since the association engaged them concerning the suspension, but has represented them to Cabinet in December 2015, which led to the exportation of all containers of scrap metal, packed prior to the suspension, which had been waiting to be shipped.
“I do understand the hardship that metal dealers are facing and my earlier commitment to resolving the matter still stands. However, we cannot resume under the same terms and conditions which previously prevailed and expect to achieve a different result,” Gaskin said, pleading with the association to exert patience and understanding as they wrap up the reform.
Secretary of the association Michael Benjamin stated that the scrap metal trade was suspended to accommodate a forensic audit with recommendations for additional legislation in the trade. However, he emphasised that the report has been out since December 2015 and the trade is yet to resume.
He contended that there was absolutely no need for them to leave the trade suspended after the audit was completed. “The trade could have been reopened while government would have been working to make new legislations. The hardships and suffering to thousands of our citizens who depend on this trade for a living could have been avoided, as well as the lawlessness that the closure has created.”
He slammed the ministry for the closure of a legitimate sector while they turned a blind eye on the underground trade.
Thus, he is challenging Gaskin to show the association one thing that they have done to curb the illegal trade and one benefit of the suspension on legal trade.
“Granting concession to have the forty-two containers shipped in December 2015 was not re-opening the trade,” he argued, contending that those containers were for six dealers but what was happening to all the others?
“The total disregard by the government for suffering of our people has now become unbearable,” Benjamin charged, arguing that his mind cannot conceive anything new that any new legislation can put in place, more than they already had.
Calling the shutdown of the trade for over a year illegal, he beseeched Gaskin to do the “right and moral thing” and reopen the trade and address the issue of the smuggling of scrap metals.