The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) is in a state of crisis. The financial quagmire facing the agency is so troubling that over 400 workers are owed salaries for July and many have not received their 2019 year-end bonus. Also, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), and the Guyana Power and Light, are owed over $130M. This state of affairs for the newly installed Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat is deeply concerning and has been brought to the attention of the PPP Cabinet.

During a recent interview with Guyana Standard, Minister Bharrat said that the forestry sector needs urgent support which he would be advocating for at the next Cabinet meeting. The Minister said, “…Four hundred and seventeen workers have not been paid for July. Utility companies are owed millions. In total, it would amount to approximately $150M. It is a sad situation with the Commission…”

The Minister explained that the funding for GFC was significantly reduced after the former government repossessed lands from Barama Company Limited and BaiShanLin International Forest Development Inc. Those lands totaled 7.6 million acres. According to Bharrat, they were reallocated to small concessionaires who did not have the financial or infrastructural dexterity as Barama and BaiShanLin.

“So what occurred was that 70 percent of the concessionaires were working at a 30 percent rate. So funding dropped significantly,” Minister Bharrat explained.

When asked for a comment on the state of corruption if any has been found, the Minister reminded that a special auditing team has been appointed by President Irfaan Ali for a rapid assessment of 19 agencies, one of which includes the Guyana Forestry Commission. Bharrat said that he will await the findings of the report before pronouncing further.

“…I don’t want to accuse people wrongfully…But based on initial reports, I told my agency heads that there has been wastage and abuse…There are a lot of changes that need to take place to ensure better transparency and accountability. I know it won’t happen overnight but I can assure Guyanese that I will get it done,” Minister Bharrat concluded.


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