The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has welcomed the measures in the Emergency Budget 2020, noting that they are crucial to the revival and development of the forestry sector.
In an exclusive interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI), GFC Commissioner (Ag.), Mr. Gavin Agard said in the few weeks the Government has been in office, it has delivered on its commitments to the commission and the sector with the introduction of key provisions which will enhance the sector’s operations.
Some of these measures include:
• Removal of VAT and duties on machinery and equipment
• Tax concessions on ATVs,
• An amendment to the log export policy
• Removal of VAT on hinterland travel
• $.15 billion allocation to improve hinterland infrastructure
These measures will open up a host of investment opportunities within the sector. The removal of VAT coupled with the tax concessions will allow for cheaper and easier procurement of machinery and equipment and could lead to greater investments in the sector. Improving hinterland infrastructure such as roads and bridges, along with the removal of VAT on air travel will also boost the sector as it will reduce the cost of transport for both people and material.
Loggers and timber dealers will now be able to transport their products to the coast at a cheaper price. This will ultimately see the price of lumber reducing on the local markets, making it more affordable for consumers.
The acting Commissioner noted that with the amendment to the log export policy, there will be increased competition within the sector as well as increased productivity with the Commission on value-added production.
“There’s a drive by the Forestry Commission to improve value-added [production]. There is greater employment with value added [production], greater revenues are generated not just for the forestry sector, but also for the operator,” Mr. Agard said.
This is “essential” to securing the livelihoods of small and large operators.
Prior to the amendment, only holders of concessions were allowed to export forest products. The amendment now allows sawmillers and timber dealers to purchase logs from operators and export them through their own licence rather than have to go through the licence of the concession holder.
This, he said, will see more money going back into the hands of the sawmillers and timber dealers.
“This initiative will definitely boost competitiveness and allow for smooth transition and efficiency of operations as it relates to exports.”
The budgetary measures, coupled with the recent $350 million bailout, will allow the Commission to take the industry forward. September was the first time in recent months that staff of the Commission were paid on time and the agency’s expenses were met.
“The Commission is in a place where a strategic plan is being prepared in close collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources,” he said, further commending the Government for engaging with stakeholders.
Mr. Agard reaffirmed the Commission’s commitment to carrying out its functions as the regulatory body of the forestry sector, and to ensure the enhancement of operations in the sustainable development of the sector.