Gov’t will not sidetrack logging and mining for oil-Min. Bharrat

—exploring measures to have rep for small loggers sit on the GFC Board

—Labour Ministry aims to establish labour officers in all regions

Minister of Natural Resources, Hon. Vickram Bharrat, Minister of Labour, Hon. Joseph Hamilton and Guyana Forestry Commissioner, Mr. Gavin Agard on Friday, met with members of the Ituni Small Loggers Association (ISLA) at the Ituni Community Center, Upper Demerara Berbice.

This engagement was among others conducted by the Minsters at several forestry stations in Region 10. Also visited was the Sosedyke, Kwakwani stations.

Several issues were raised at the meeting including lack of tags and limited volume to continue logging operations; increased mining in ISLA concessions; access to finances for venturing into value-added activities and lack of representation for small logger associations on of the Guyana Forestry Commission Board.

Secretary for ISLA, Mr. Linden Duncan noted that the association is cognisant of the fact that the new administration is still “familiarising itself,” therefore “the issue we have, we understand cannot be immediately addressed. However, we hope that they can be looked at the beginning of the new fiscal year.”

The most pressing issue he said is being able to continue to operate; since approximately 75 percent of the community depends on logging activities for their livelihoods.

Minister Bharrat assured members of the association that their concerns will be thoroughly addressed. He noted that mining and logging benefits thousands of Guyanese and the PPP/C government will not “sidetrack” the two sectors for oil and gas.

“We are working on preparing the Budget for 2020… we are hoping to get that budget presented in Parliament in a few days from now. as you are aware of mining and logging, directly and indirectly, benefits I would say 150,000 to 200,000 Guyanese when you put the two sectors together so a lot of attention is been paid. Even though, the big thing in Guyana is Oil and Gas. It is not our Government’s intention to sidetrack mining and logging at the expense of Oil and Gas.”

The Minister said that the sectors provide massive contributions to the economy of the country but require good management with good systems in place to benefit the stakeholders and the government.

He said he will be reviewing the issues raised at the Ministerial-level however some may need to be addressed at Cabinet.

Some of these issues may be [dealt with] at Cabinet-level with the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister. We can explore how we are going to find solutions for these issues,” he explained.

Referring to the issue of the opening of more lands, MinisterBharrat noted that a policy will have to be made in that regard.

“For example, the one for productive land to work, that is a policy decision and we will look at how much land can be opened up and at what cost to the Government because if we open up land we need the relevant infrastructure to work that land because we can say ‘yes we can open up land’ however well will need to develop the roads to get in,” he explained.

He added that the Ministry will explore measures to have a representative for the small logging associations sit on the Forestry Commission Board. However, in the interim, the way is being cleared for the representative to be able to communicate with the Board and the Management of the GFC.

Meanwhile, Minister of Labour, Hon. Joseph Hamilton underscored the importance of the loggers to familiarise themselves with the labour laws of Guyana. Particularly as it related to employer-employee relations.

“You have to obey the labour laws… whether in mining or forestry. Let your organisation get access to all the rules and regulations so you know what obligation you have to your employees and they, in turn, know what obligation they have to their employer.”

He said, Ministry intends to establish Labour Officers and Occupational Health and Safety Officers in every region, who can be onsite to oversee the operations of various entities. As such, the Minister recommended that these persons be selected by community members for training facilitated by the Ministry of Labour.

“My idea is to have the community…  say to [Ministry of] Labour, this is a bright young man or woman that we are recommending for training to be the Labour Officer and the Occupational Safety and Health Officer. … so, you will have somebody who is out there… to ensure safe working conditions and good labour relations,” Minister Hamilton stated.”