… as concerns of miners yet to be addressed
Concerns have been raised by the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) for some time, including the elapsed concessions they formerly benefited from, increased taxes and interior roads.
According to Executive Member of the Association, Colin Sparman, these
concerns largely remain unaddressed despite meetings with Government representatives. In addition, there is no word on whether the President will meet with the Association, the recognised representative of gold miners. “We want to meet with the President,” Sparman said during a recent interview. “About two years we have been asking to meet with the President.” He noted that some of the topical issues the Association would potentially raise with the President are the taxes on mining operators, as well as ways of stabilising the royalties paid for gold in Guyana to mitigate the effects of fluctuations on the world market. “Everyone is depending on the gold production, because of the revenue,” Sparman said, referring to the members of the Association. “We still have issues with the road conditions in the interior.” Commenting on the increase in the processing fees for gold declarations by the Guyana Gold Board, Sparman noted that the Association was told that the increase from $1000 to $2500 was due to overhead costs. However, he stated that the Association was in consort with the $2500 decision. For some time, miners have been raising issues, such as the spike in taxes across the board implemented by the Government; in particular, the increase of the Tributors Tax from 10 to 20 per cent, Value Added Tax on heavy-duty mining equipment and the two per cent Withholding Tax.
In addition, the Association had complained of not being able to benefit from the grant of duty-free concessions on mining equipment, vehicles and fuel, owing to the red tape experienced at the regulatory agencies involved. In 2015, the GGDMA signed agreements with the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). These agreements had included the granting of exemption from custom duties on fuel and equipment for eligible miners. But with an initial lifespan of six months, miners complained bitterly that the time elapsed with many not benefiting.
The roads in the mining areas are another issue that came to the forefront when aggrieved truck operators travelled to Georgetown to expose the degraded condition of the roads. And since miners depend on trucking services to transport supplies, the issue is one that impacted on their livelihood.
But declaring that overweight trucks are chiefly responsible for wreaking havoc on interior roads in Guyana, Government had announced that moves will be made to amend the relevant laws in order to enforce weight limits on the roadways. In fact, the legislative instrument to enable change of the laws is currently with the Chamber of the Attorney General for vetting.
Three heavy-duty scales have already been procured, and Government will be moving to have them installed at key locations shortly. And of the $2.3 billion allocated to the Public Infrastructure Ministry for use on hinterland roads, some 82 per cent of that fund has been committed to contracts, while a total of 43 per cent of the money committed to contracts having already been disbursed to contractors.
Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson made this announcement at the beginning of the recent sitting of the National Assembly. Patterson was responding to Opposition parliamentarian Juan Edghill, who had queried what measures were being put in place to address the plight of truckers moving goods and providing services to interior locations using roads such as the Linden/Lethem road link, among others.