PIO MPs India conference– Resident Indian High Commissioner fires backDirector of Public Information at the Office of the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has been upbraided for what was described as a ‘distasteful’ comment directed at the resident Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, His Excellency Mr Mahalingam Venkatachalam, regarding the selection of Members of Parliament for a conference in India.Khan, a member of the Alliance for Change (AFC) component of the Coalition APNU-AFC Administration, took to social media to call out High Commissioner Venkatachalam on the issue of several sitting MPs of Indian origin – from both the Government and parliamentary Opposition benches — attending the first-ever PIO (Person of Indian Origin) Parliamentarian Conference in India.“Something smells. And it ain’t parfum. Is the Indian High Commission in Guyana interfering in Guyana’s internal affairs and attempting to engage in destabilisation of the Coalition Government?” Khan questioned, while tagging the Indian diplomat in his personalised comment.Director of Public Information, Imran KhanKhan went a bit further, asking whether any of the Indo-Guyanese ministers of Government and sitting MPs were invited to the conference currently ongoing in India? “Or did the High Commission only and deliberately invite three Coalition Government backbench parliamentarians while specifically ignoring ministers? If so, on what basis was this decision made?” Khan further questioned.Khan also questioned whether it was true that 23 Guyanese MPs were invited in this regard, and that 20 of the invitees are Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) MPs while a mere three are Government MPs.While there were several arguments pertaining to whether Khan should be asking these questions, or whether it was a direct attack on the Indian High Commissioner, several people found it strange that Khan, a public office bearer, would raise these concerns with a foreign mission in such a forum.Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence also took umbrage at the statement made by Khan, and expressed her displeasure by saying, “Imran Khan, this is distasteful and not in keeping with how this Government treats their guests. Please remove this post.”Venkatachalam, on the other hand, later responded to the post by stating that many persons in the top hierarchy of the Guyana Government and the Guyana High Commission in New Delhi are aware of the invitations from the Government of India for 23 MPs and 3 Mayors of Guyana, and of the rationale behind inviting only those Persons of Indian Origin MPs who are not Ministers.“Hence reckless comments on such a serious issue on social media with the clear intention to mislead the general public by none other than Director of Public Information is unfortunate, irresponsible, unprofessional; and to say the least, mischievous, given the excellent bilateral relations being enjoyed by both India and Guyana and the ongoing friendly cooperation in various multilateral fora,” the High Commissioner chided.Meanwhile, in response to posts on social media and in sections of the mainstream media criticising the PPP for sending a total of 17 Parliamentarians to a conference in India, Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira responded that her party had received invitations and accepted them. She claimed that soon after, in December, preparations were put in place for the selected individuals to attend the event, which is being hosted by India. This, she said, affected the attendance of those Opposition MPs in Parliament on Wednesday.The Opposition Chief Whip also rebuffed criticisms at the selection of Opposition Parliamentarian Clement Rohee to form part of the delegation attending the conference. She said Rohee is of Indian origin, as his name suggests, and his parentage background is also Indian.Among the Guyana delegation to attend the conference are three MPs from the Coalition Government and three mayors. The trip is being funded by the Indian Government.The PPP delegation is led by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, and includes Clement Rohee, Irfaan Ali, Anil Nandlall, Dr. Frank Anthony, Dharamkumar Seeraj, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, Indranie Chandarpal, Colin Croal, Dr Bheri Ramsarran, Zulfikar Mustapha, Ganga Persaud, Neendkumar, Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo, Nigel Dharamlall, Bhagmattie Veerasammy and Vickram Bharrat.The coalition members are Rajcoomarie Bancroft, Charrandass Persaud and Haimraj Rajkumar. Corriverton Mayor Krishnand Jaichand, Anna Regina Mayor Rabindranauth Mohan and Rose Hall Town Mayor Vijay Ramoo are also in attendance at the conference.A total of 141 public representatives from various countries participated in the conference, with some 124 MPs coming from the UK, Canada, Fiji, Kenya, Mauritius, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and other countries.The purpose of the conference was to help to establish a network with leaders of Indian origin in various countries, and get a feedback on the direction in which Indian engagement with the Diaspora should proceed. The trip is being funded by the Indian Government.
…says rightful taxes will be demandedWith oil production to come on stream in two years’ time, Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Commissioner General Godfrey Statia has assured the Private Sector that the Authority was making every effort in preparation for first oil.GRA Commissioner General Godfrey StatiaAddressing the gathering at the 26th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Thursday, Statia sought to allay certain fears expressed by the business community, saying that notwithstanding the various challenges and risks associated with Guyana’s newfound oil sector, the GRA was building capacity to ensure that taxpayers pay their rightful taxes and the contractors in the oil industry were no exception.“…With the right tools and attitude, the officers of the GRA should ensure that this vital resource contributes its rightful share to the coffers of Guyana. Despite the gloom and doom and pessimism expressed by numerous persons and many experts in the field, the GRA, which is the premier tax collection agency in Guyana, has embarked on a programme to ensure that Guyana benefits from every activity associated with first oil, be it at the upstream, midstream or the downstream,” Statia noted.While distancing the Authority from the process of determining what fiscal tools were used and how they were applied to particular oil and gas projects as part of the country’s legal framework, the GRA boss posited that Government, while it may have preferences, must also respond to the needs of the companies if the State wanted to attract and sustain Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).“Further, the uniqueness of petroleum taxation, when compared to the taxation of other goods and services lie in the industry’s special characteristics – its contribution to national economies, the high operating and development costs, high uncertainty in exploration activities, the volatility of oil prices, the inability of Government to fund its own exploration, the political and economic climate, and hostile neighbouring countries who harbour territorial claims which allow for increased risk, are all factors that warrant the demand for a higher rate of return by investors,” Statia asserted.Given the impending development and expansion Guyana is about to experience, Statia nevertheless posited that neither the Private Sector, Public Sector nor Government could ignore each other’s role in using the newfound resource for national development.“While the Private Sector can be the engine of growth, innovation and job creation, Government’s efforts to establish stable and supportive environments are also critical. The bottom line is clear: an array of actors is lining up to realise Guyana’s first oil era, and everyone has a role to play,” Statia noted, adding that such collective and interconnected actions were destined to achieve broad national development for the country and its people.Moreover, the Head of the tax collection agency went on to note that having recognised that the GRA lacked the optimal capacity to fully scrutinise the oil industry, it has sought international assistance to learn from the experiences and best practices of other countries, so that Guyana understood the financial, technical, and socioeconomic challenges that emanate from the oil industry.Don’t forget traditional sectorsMeanwhile, as US oil giant ExxonMobil prepares for first oil in 2020, former PSC Chairman Eddie Boyer is urging that the traditional sectors that have carried the country’s economy over the years not be forgotten.In his final address as Chairman, Boyer called for much focus to be placed on Guyana’s traditional sectors.“We should not look at oil and gas as the saviour only, but look at the industries that carried us to this point over the years and we are definitely conscious of those industries – the manufacturing, agriculture, mining and all the other sectors that we embrace in the Private Sector,” he posited.According to Boyer, much of the focus this year was to get the local Private Sector prepared for the mammoth opportunities that would be available as Guyana got into oil production.On this note, he urged that the Local Content Policy be examined carefully, emphasising that it should be balanced and advantageous to everyone.“With the advent of oil and gas, Guyana has already started to attract investors and the industrialisation of the nation has begun. The potential influx of capital and growth in GDP [Gross Domestic Product] has already resulted in foreign and local companies becoming interested in expanding through partnerships and investments, and we see the need to be prepared,” Boyer posited.