… supports her transfer out of Natural Resources MinistryAs conflict-of-interest concerns continue to rage over Minister within the Natural Resources Ministry Simona Broomes’ mining concessions and her oversight of the industry, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) has now joined the call for the Minister to be reassigned to another Ministry, since herMinister within the Natural Resources Ministry, Simona Broomespresence in the current Ministry was a clear conflict of interest and posed a threat to impartiality.Minister Broomes has been at the centre of a raging debate after this publication reported that she was granted a new mining permit on March 4, 2016, just about two months after she was transferred to that Ministry and handed responsibility for the mining sector.However, the Minister, who has said she transferred her mining interest to her two children, has since denied this and stated that the documentation which was ‘leaked’ was for her daughter, who was also named Simona Broomes.This publication, however, was able to confirm that the National Identification (ID) number on the application is that of the Minister and not her daughter.The GGDMA, in its strongly-worded statement, said that the subsequent “spin” by the Minister that the permission was her daughter’s hinted at the Minister’s “inability to deal impartially with mining matters and the facts”.Such actions, it said, threaten the entire industry. The GGDMA recalled that prior to becoming Minister, Broomes had both positive and negative interactions with members of the mining community.As such, the Association is arguing that when these pre-existing relationships and “bridges that may have been burnt in the past” within the sector are considered, it would be difficult for the Minister to operate in her post “impartially and without personal bias”.“No existing miner, in good sense, can refuse a request from the sector Minister for her to be given permission to take gold from their land,” the GGDMA said, adding that it must be recognised that such permissions and all future requests or permissions rest in the hands of the agency under her direct preview.“It is foolhardy for anyone to expect that in Guyana you can deny the Minister permission and then expect to get an impartial hearing on matters. If somehow the Minister is indeed capable of staying impartial in this regard, the question remains of whether or not she should be put in such a position in the first place, where reasons for her actions can always be defended, even when they are affected by secret or closet biases,” it stated.Calls for transferThe GGDMA said it supported the call for the Minister to be reassigned to another Ministry.“The GGDMA, therefore, is heartened by the comments of His Excellency, President David Granger that he will reassign the Minister if a conflict of interest arises. We declare that there is a clear conflict of interest and call on the President to honour his words. Minister Broomes can serve well in any other Ministry,” the release stated.Miners concernedThe GGDMA said that it is being bombarded with calls from miners who have expressed concerns about the clear case of conflict of interest involving the Minister, but are reluctant to voice their concerns publicly for fear of victimisation.“At our recently-held miners’ meeting, the issue was also raised. Members have since privately contacted the leadership of the Association to express their concerns. Both miners and mining equipment suppliers have expressed a concern as to their ability to refuse a request from the Minister or her children in mining. For example, should they request credit terms for mining supplies, a supplier would be hard pressed to say no or even complain, since the agency for complaints is headed by the very Minister,” the Association stated.Already there have been calls from several persons, including the newly-appointed President of the Transparency Institute (Guyana) Inc (TIGI), Troy Thomas and former Government Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey for the Minister to be reassigned to another Ministry.They both agree that this could remove the cloud of conflict of interest.
While the lead time for hotel bookings has increased, last minute bookings by travel agents are also on the rise, according to data analysis released by Excite Holidays.Excite Holidays revealed a 21 percent upsurge in hotel bookings made nine months in advance during the first quarter of 2013, compared with the same period in 2012.52 percent of all hotel bookings were made 10 months ahead of departure, while accommodation reservations made five months in advance of departure dropped by approximately 9 percent.“But that’s not to say that we’re not seeing last minute bookings come through from travel agents,” Excite Holidays chief executive George Papaioannou said.When compared to last year’s figures, there has been a 22 percent jump in last minute hotel bookings made seven to fourteen days prior to departure by agents for the first quarter of 2013.The standard of hotels booked is also switching, noting an 18 percent increase for 4.5 star properties during the first quarter of 2013, compared to the same period 2012.“Holidays are an important feature of people’s lives and these figures show that travellers are again willing to spend,” Mr Papaioannou said.“The increased lead time for bookings only shows that they are booking way in advance so they can get the dates and accommodation they want before it gets sold out.”Source = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T. Last minute bookings also on the rise.