PNC/R slams Alcoa proposal
Accuses government of bad faith

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
June 8, 2001

The PNC REFORM (PNC/R) says it will have great difficulty in supporting Alcoa's proposal for restructuring Bermine and has accused the government of bad faith for attempting to promote acceptance of the plan.

According to the Chairman of the PNC/R Robert Corbin, the Alcoa document is not a proposal but a concept and, therefore, it does not constitute the basis for any negotiations between the Government and Alcoa.

However, he said that the impression given by the Government is that it seems to be committed towards negotiating the future of the bauxite industry on the basis of this document.

Prime Minister Sam Hinds disagrees and maintained yesterday that the Alcoa document is a proposal. The government has said it favours the Alcoa proposal but is amenable to considering other eligible proposals.

In a statement at a press conference yesterday, Corbin noted that there was an understanding that the Government would make all information it possessed available to the Committee responsible for examining the options for resuscitating the bauxite industry.

He further noted that all negotiations were supposed to be placed in abeyance until the Committee had completed its report and submitted its recommendations to President Bharrat Jagdeo and PNC/R Leader Desmond Hoyte who had agreed on the establishment of the committee.

Yet, even as the Committee was being formed, he said, the Government was holding discussions with Alcoa, outside of the ambit of the Committee, with regard to the future of the Aroaima Bauxite Company (ABC) and Bermine."

Corbin said that the Party was "disturbed by the bad faith which inspired the public pronouncements and visits by the President and Prime Minister to promote the acceptance of the Alcoa concept."

"The Government seems bent on giving the impression that acceptance of the Alcoa proposal is a done deal. If this is so, what is the need for and the purpose of the Joint Committee?" he enquired.

Acceptance of the Alcoa concept, Corbin said, would result in the loss of 554 jobs at Everton and Kwakwani within 2 to 3 years.

ABC is reported to have incurred a debt of US$57 million to Reynolds during the period 1991 to 2000 despite having exported 16.4 million metric tonnes of dried bauxite valued at US$434.6 million. The company also showed losses each year during the period 1997 to 2000 amounting to a total of US$25 million although it exported 7.7 million metric tonnes of dried bauxite valued at US$195.4 million.

Corbin noted that Reynolds which managed ABC and sold the bauxite mainly to itself did not provide any details to satisfy the Committee how the losses had arisen.

He pointed out that the government which should have been looking out for the interests of the nation did not even exercise the prudence of conducting its own due diligence on ABC even though Alcoa had done one on Bermine.

He concluded that "the Alcoa Concept document leaves no doubt that they are simply seeking to "package" ABC, which they own as a result of their takeover of Reynolds, for resale to another interested buyer."

He added that party intelligence had revealed that the expected buyer was none other than Reynolds. "Given these facts," Corbin said, "PNC REFORM will have great difficulty in supporting the Alcoa proposals."

Alcoa has proposed to shut down Everton immediately which would result in the loss of 269 jobs. ABC presently employs 468 persons and Kwakwani 217. The expectation is that total employment would be reduced to 618 and within the next three years to 400.

The Committee to examine the various options for the resuscitation of the bauxite industry had been requested by the Government to give priority consideration to a proposal contained in the Alcoa concept document dated April 23, 2001.

The original time frame for the Committee to complete its examination was three months but this was subsequently amended to one month.

Corbin cited other actions by the PPP/Civic government which the PNC/R considered to be "serious breaches of good faith and appear to be calculated to undermine the negotiations that are taking place between the PNC REFORM Leader and Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo."

One of these was the recent proposal by Prime Minister Sam Hinds for owners of television stations to pay licence fees and for the content of programmes to be regulated.

Noting that another Jagdeo/Hoyte group was already working on this area, the PNC/R, he said, was calling upon all owners of television stations to "ignore Mr. Hinds' ultimatum and await the recommendations of the joint committee."