Stone contract ‘a frontal attack’ on the Guyanese Private Sector – says former AFC official

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  • slams Gaskin’s disclosure that 300,000 tonnes of stones will be imported from Suriname – bypassing local suppliers for CJIA’s US$150M Expansion Projectsase-singh1

In an environment where the Administration has failed to deliver on its promises to provide jobs for young people, it is now caught in a situation where taxpayers will be forced to repay the largest loan in recent history, but the jobs being created have now been shifted to neighbouring Suriname.

This was the observation made by former Alliance For Change (AFC) economist Sasenarine Singh, who in a recent missive to the media lambasted the Administration along with his former colleague now Business Minister, Dominic Gaskin, over the disclosure that 300,000 tonnes of stones will be imported from Suriname – bypassing local suppliers – for the US$150 million Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Expansion Project.

“This situation demands a forensic audit and even a project audit from the Office of the Auditor General…This contract is a frontal attack on the Guyanese Private Sector,” Singh asserted.

The former AFC economist has since labelled the actions by the controversial Chinese contractor in cohort with the A Partnership for National Unity/AFC Government as a “giveaway of our wealth”.

Singh has since queried, “What a greater giveaway of our wealth is there than to take decisions that will destroy our internal wealth creation capacity by lifting all of that potential into a foreign land?”

He suggested that the situation represented nothing, but developmental disparity: “we pay and Suriname plays”.

Team Guyana

According to Singh, “what the (David) Granger Administration has done with this airport contract was to have kept Team Guyana on the bench as spectators to the game, when by right we have the talent, the material and the ability to produce every stone needed for our national airport”.

He was referring to the fact that it was the current Administration which had halted the Expansion Project when it took office, and renegotiated and amended the contract.

Singh said the Business Minister was wrong, reiterating that the contract was “a frontal attack on the Guyanese Private Sector”.

“The children of Guyanese taxpayers will be asked to pay back a loan to China in the future, but that same loan was creating new jobs in Suriname rather than in Guyana in an industry where we have a core competence locally,” he declared.

The economist made his position known in a recent public missive and said, “Here is another situation where the Granger Administration is clearly out to lunch on the big developmental issues.”

Govt powerless

He was at the time responding to statements made by the Business Minister that the Government was essentially powerless to prevent China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC), the contractor on the project, from importing crushed stones from Suriname.

“To add to that pitiable performance, he (Gaskin) then went on to say why this is the case by saying that due to the contractual agreement between the Government and CHEC, the State cannot prevent the contracting firm from importing 300,000 tonnes of stones… I say this is too much from Minister Gaskin,” the former AFC member stated.

Singh had prefaced his observation by firstly crediting the now Business Minister with his stewardship of the AFC’s finances during the 2011 elections campaign.

According to Singh, “He (Gaskin) was extremely consistent in his demand for full accountability from all the field staff then… So in 2011, I was proud of his work, but clearly, as Minister of Business, he has lost his way.”

He lambasted the Business Minister for also conceding in the local press that “no new investment proposal has yet borne fruit” after 16 months under his watch.

“Minister Gaskin is making these statements in an environment where the Granger Administration has not delivered on its promise to create new jobs for young people,” Singh lamented.

“When will this national burden subside, where we continue to create too few new jobs all because of an overwhelming deformity of strategic thinking in the public service and reckless public statements from most of our Ministers, with very few exceptions.”

He added, “Can you imagine that the biggest contract that is being implemented under Team Granger that was incubated under Team Jagdeo is working to serve the State of Suriname rather than the State of Guyana and we talk about territorial integrity?”

(Reprinted: Guyana Times)

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