Minister in the Natural Resources Ministry, Simona Broomes is confident budget 2017 will benefit the mining sector, but the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association as well as the Guyana Women Miners Organisation feel differently.
A number of groups have come out in opposition of the proposed 2017 budget including the private sector commission. Broomes, a former head of the women miners group told the National Assembly on wednesday that the mining sector accounts for 12.1% of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The 2017 budget along with the previously proposed 3% reduction in the gold board price for gold and the removal of concessions to the sector, can only lead to lower declarations and a decline in the sector that would take the economy into a negative spiral. There will be no growth in 2017 without mining,” the two mining groups said in a joint statement.
“The sector is dominated by non-accountants and people who are more familiar with machines than books,” the statement continued, “we cannot see how the Government of Guyana expects compliance in such a short time. The cultural norms of the sector prevent us from adjusting to this new measure overnight.”
Further, the two mining groups noted, “this move will target the compliant larger miners and force the small miners (who contribute the bulk of gold production) underground. Guyana will lose in the long term and our associations will be powerless to convince them to become compliant outside of their capacity.”
The mining groups further complained of the difficulty of attaining fuel concessions, which appear to be impossible when examining the 2017 budget.
On the proposed Tributors Tax increase from 10% to 20%, the mining groups explained there is already difficulty explaining the 10% tax deduction from their salaries.
“To ask for double is exposing operators to even more aggression. We do not welcome the burden of collecting tax for Guyana Revenue authority (GRA). We are asking the GRA to mount a public awareness campaign to ensure that workers understand that the increase is a GRA requirement,” the statement continued.
The mining groups are calling for the Finance Minister as well as the head of the Guyana Revenue Authority to accompany them to the mining regions to observe operations there since “the Minister of Finance is not properly briefed about what transpires in the gold and diamond mining areas of Guyana.”
Opposition MP Odinga Lumumba feels the mining groups should have been consulted on the budget. “I want to compliment the Minister for bringing the Guyana Geology and Mines staff, but you should have brought the miners who will have to pay the 20% tax,” Odinga told the House during his budget speech.
Lumumba expressed concern that land was not set aside for small miners. Turning his attention the Finance Minister Winston Jordan, Lumumba noted “it was very traumatic for him to produce a budget that has shades of economic genocide,” adding that “some of the projects are political gymnastics.”
On government’s drive to build the Linden to Lethem Road, Lumumba questioned the David Granger administration on possible commitments from the Brazilian Government since Brazil would also benefit from the development of that road.