BaiShanLin, the Chinese- owned logging company that closed shop and left under the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government, still owes the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) close to $70 million.
This was revealed by Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat during an interview with this publication.
According to the minister, the company has since expressed an interest in meeting with the Government.
“They owe the Forestry Commission close to $70 million. GRA would have seized equipment, but they owe Forestry. They expressed an interest in meeting. If they’re coming to meet, maybe they have an interest in getting back into production; so, definitely, we have to look at arrears,” Bharrat said.
Subsequent checks with the Minister revealed there was a meeting, and the company has expressed an interest in returning to production in Guyana.
However, Bharrat noted that Cabinet would have to discuss the issue and, moreover, BaiShanLin’s debt remains an issue.
“We haven’t moved forward because, of course, it has to be cleared by Cabinet. Then there’s the indebtedness to GFC, we have to work through that. BaiShanLin doesn’t have a concession now…but, basically, it was a meeting for them to signal their intention to get back into forestry, and for us to discuss the process on how we move forward. And then Forestry will have to speak on the debt,” Bharrat also said.
When BaiShanLin first started its operations locally, it had committed under its investment agreement to establish a US$100 million wood processing plant in order to engage in value-added exports. This was never built.
In September 2016, the GFC announced that it would repossess concessions held by Baishanlin International Forest Development Inc (BIFDI), since it failed to deliver on several commitments.
In February 2018, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of GFC, Jocelyn Dow, revealed that Baishanlin owes the Commission in excess of $80 million, and that moves are afoot to have the monies recovered with the assistance of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
In January of this year, GFC had announced that BaiShanLin’s former forest concessions, which the commission had revoked, would be up for grabs. It is unclear at this point who ended up as the recipients of the concessions.