Smuggling from Suriname a major bugbear for Guyanese businesses as Trade Talks begin

Smuggling from Suriname a major bugbear for Guyanese businesses

14 January 2015 – by   –  Demerara Waves

GT -Suriname Trade MissionAs a group of Surinamese private sector and government officials prepare to participate in a three-day trade mission in Guyana from Thursday, the Private Sector Commission of Guyana is concerned about smuggling.

Chairman for Trade and Investment at the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo says products produced in Guyana and other Caricom member states are facing unfair competition from goods smuggled from neighbouring Suriname.

He says that in many instances higher quality products are imported into Suriname on concessionary terms and then smuggled to Guyana where they are sold at cheaper prices. Products include vehicles, fuel, textiles, alcohol, tobacco and hardware.  

Mr Dookhoo says the major issue is lax customs enforcement on both sides of the border. He says Guyanese manufacturers are expected to ask customs officials from both countries hard questions.

The 40 Surinamese business and government officials will be engaged in business-to-business meetings with their Guyanese counterparts during the January 15 to 17 trade mission. “The conference is intended to promite trade between Guyana and Suriname, in particular to increase Guyanese exports of goods and services to Suriname and to increase tourism between the two countries,” said Dookhoo in a statement.

The Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce will also be represented at the trade mission.

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Suriname, Guyana will have to formalise ‘back-track’, tighten security simultaneously– Guyana’s Foreign Minister

Thursday, 15 January 2015 22:47  by   Demerara Waves

 Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett Thursday night said that the formalizing of the ‘back-track’ unofficial port at Skeldon, depended on moves by Suriname to do so at Nickerie on the eastern bank of the Corentyne River that borders the two countries.

Addressing the formal opening of a Guyana-Suriname Trade Mission at the Princess Hotel, Providence, East Bank Demerara, she said that the sister Caribbean Community (Caricom) member-state will have to take similar steps before the ports are regularized.

“In order for us to fix the back track, it has to be done simultaneously on both sides because if one fixes it and the other side doesn’t, it wouldn’t work and so we have been working with our Surinamese counterparts to see when we can do this at the appropriate time because we also have to remember that everyone using there must have all their documentation as well,” she said. 

The Foreign Minister said that the process  was “gradual” but both countries were working on streamling that travel route.  Although there is a daily Guyana-Suriname Ferry Service from Moleson Creek to South Drain, nationals from both countries prefer to cross the river in small wooden boats because it is much faster to travel to either country.

Latest available statistics show that there is a huge trade imbalance between the two countries in favour of Suriname.  Guyana’s exports to Suriname for 2010 to 2014 were valued at GUY$5.3 billion in contrast to Surinamese imports for the same period totalling GUY$31.8 billion; a huge chunk being for Bunker fuel purchases from that former Dutch colony. Rodrigues-Birkett said that Guyanese exporters still have a very good opportunity to “leverage the market access in Suriname.”

Concerns have been raised repeatedly by government authorities in both countries that the poorly monitored back-track route is a thoroughfare for the smuggling of goods, drugs, guns and people.

President of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, Abraham Subnauth hoped that one of the outcomes of the Trade Mission and Conference would find ways of eventually replacing such terms as ‘back-track’ and smuggling. “It is not a very nice word, nor is it a healthy culture so we need to change it and the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce is hoping that this conference will start building the tools to replace the term back track with open border,” and the “term smuggling with free trade.”

For his part, Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar recommended that the two countries harmonize customs duties and taxes on some items to help make smuggling a disincentive. “I think is time we start thinking seriously about unifying some of our regimes, making some of our regimes similar so in that way we can cut down on smuggling and we maximize the benefits for the people of our country particularly as it relates to some our wasting assets,” he said.

He singled out gold as one product for which the taxes should be harmonized. Guyanese authorities believe that a lot of the country’s gold is smuggled to Suriname where the taxes are lower.

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All eyes on Region’s multi-billion-dollar food import bill –as Guyana/Suriname talk business at Trade Summit
Photo: Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar and head of the Surinamese delegation to the Summit, Trade Minister, Mr Don Tosendjojo, engage each other atJamuary 15th  reception at the do at the Princess Hotel (Photo by Adrian Narine)

All eyes on Region’s multi-billion-dollar food import bill –as Guyana/Suriname talk business at Trade Summit

 PRESIDENT Donald Ramotar last evening hosted a 40-strong Surinamese business delegation here in Guyana for the first ever ‘Trade Mission’ meant to bolster ties between the two countries.

And seizing the moment, he made the point that while Caribbean integration is not necessarily the success story it ought to be as yet, the situation can be changed through greater links between CARICOM countries.
The President also used the opportunity to stress that greater government-to-government relations makes for better private sector relations.
“We are leaders,” he said. “And not only do we belong to CARICOM, but we are neighbours; and the development of our countries is extremely important to give a higher quality of life to our people.” [Read more]

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Comments

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 01/16/2015 at 12:32 pm

    Forgive my ignorance. Guyana has no functioning government yet the President and Foreign Trade Minister are negotiating trade deals with Suriname? What am I getting wrong?

  • Cliff  On 01/16/2015 at 3:24 pm

    The President and his Cabinet are still in place until new date of election is announced.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/16/2015 at 3:39 pm

    This Q&A is from a Toronto, Canada newspaper in 2008 pertaining to proroguing parliament IN CANADA only – but it may help in a small way to understand that the government is allowed to govern – you will see in there that the situation can be equated with an adjournment – but they went on to explain the difference: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2008/12/04/more_q_a_on_the_parliamentary_crisis.html

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