…say forced to intermittently halt operationsMining syndicates in Puruni, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) are being forced to suspend their operations at various intervals owing to the nearly impassable roads in the area. They told reporters on Tuesday that the Public Infrastructure Ministry and by extension, the Government must rectify the problem, so they can earn a livelihood without hindrance.Scenes from the Puruni road in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni)The Body’s President Cheryl Williams told the gathering that she has been incurring losses along with her fellow miners and noted that she too was forced to suspend her operations, saying that others were also forced to suspend mining. It was explained that the road was “neglected” for over one year and that it has deteriorated over the past several months. In some cases, she noted, persons have been injured.“The appalling condition of the road affects miners significantly as most miners struggle to transport supplies to keep their operations afloat. Last December, a miner travelling to Puruni was forced to exit his vehicle to walk a portion of the road as the vehicle was wrecked. During that process, the miner suffered a broken leg and was transported to Bartica and then to Georgetown for medical attention,” Williams recalled.She further explained that while individuals would pay $15,000 to travel by road or $20,000 by water, the prices heighten as the roads worsen.“The trucks that going in would charge $300,000 to $1,000,000 to get in when the road is bad and you take four to five days just to reach Puruni…we are pleading with the Government, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission to fix the Puruni road and rid miners of the trials currently faced to accessing mining areas,” she noted.Williams met with operatives of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and Natural Resources Ministry, the latter of which promised to address the road. She added that the roads are always being discussed at the level of the GGMC.Another miner, Dana Jones is, however, calling for a full investigation and immediate action into the conditions. “We’re calling for an investigation from the national standpoint because we are miners but human beings as well – we are not dogs,” she stressed.Another miner observed that the sector is a significant contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The miners have also highlighted the risks involved in using the river to reach their destinations as opposed to land travel.In images released in the media, some trucks were virtually buried in muddy lakes within the roads and had to be pulled out by other trucks. This is a very risky and life-threating situation which has resulted in injuries to some, the Body said. The Puruni road runs from Itaballi through Papishpou and is said to be the only entrance and exit to various sections of Region Seven.
Checks down in favor of plastic In some cases, consumers may still write a check, but increasingly, merchants are scanning those checks and converting them to an electronic payment. The Federal Reserve counts those checks as electronic payments and not as checks; paychecks electronically deposited in employees’ bank accounts are also included as electronic payments. Converting checks to electronic payments allows merchants to get paid quicker, and it may help reduce the number of insufficient-funds checks businesses have to deal with. Processing checks electronically is also cheaper. In 2003, about 8.9billion converted checks were reported, accounting for about 11percent of all noncash payments. At some stores that process checks electronically, such as Wal-Mart and clothing retailers the Gap and Banana Republic, the clerk hands the check back to the consumer with their receipt after scanning it and claiming an electronic payment for the store. Consumers might not realize that many of the checks they write to utilities, mortgage companies and other businesses are also being converted to electronic payments when the companies receive them, said Terri Bradford, a payments researcher with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The decline in check writing, combined with the increase in electronic check processing, prompted the Federal Reserve to dramatically reduce the size of its check-processing department, whose operations are covered by the processing fees it charges for handling checks and electronic transfers. Since 2003, the Fed has closed more than half of its 45 check-processing centers. By the end of 2008, only 18 will remain. Checking writing isn’t going away, though. Some transactions are still better suited to checks, such as paying the kid who mows the lawn, making a contribution to a church to have a record of charitable donations at tax time, or payments such as real-estate closings, Bradford said. Demographics also plays a role. Joe Abboud, 90, wrote a check for his groceries at Hy-Vee recently because that’s what he always does. He said he occasionally uses a credit card, but checks are just more comfortable. Another grocery customer, Cheryl Carlson, said she uses checks to keep track of her spending. When she writes a check, she always writes the amount down in her register. With the debit card, that step is easy to forget. “The only time I use my debit card is when I leave the checkbook at home,” said Carlson, who is in her 40s. Fed closes processing centers But paper isn’t going away Suited to checks Some business payments might also be better suited to checks, Bradford said. For example, writing a check instead of authorizing a wire transfer or making some other electronic payment may help a business better manage its cash flow because there is still some delay between when the check is written and when it is received. “From a cash-management purpose, I imagine some businesses would still prefer checks because of the float,” Bradford said. She doesn’t expect checks to entirely vanish. “There’s a certain segment of the population that’s going to write checks,” Bradford said. “You probably get stuck behind them in the check-out aisle.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The growing popularity of plastic is the biggest factor. From 2000 to 2003, the number of debit-card transactions nearly doubled from 8.3billion to 15.6billion, and the number of credit-card transactions jumped from 15.6billion to 19billion. Increasingly, checks also are being converted into electronic payments by merchants who prefer electronic transfers to dealing with the paper checks. For Julie O’Neill of Omaha, her credit card is simply more convenient, and all her spending is compiled on a single statement at the end of the month. When it comes time to pay bills, she turns on her computer rather than digging for stamps. “I procrastinate, so then I can go online and not have to go through snail mail,” she said. Together, credit and debit card use accounted for 43percent of all noncash payments in 2003, up from 33percent in 2000. Richard Kesterson slid his debit card out of his wallet before the grocery store cashier rang up his total. Like millions of Americans, the Omaha, Neb., man didn’t even consider paying by check. Using a debit card or paying online through his bank’s bill-pay system is easier, he said – and his bank keeps track of his spending instead. “I haven’t balanced my account in 10 years,” Kesterson said. Check writing has declined sharply since 1995. The Federal Reserve estimates that 49.5billion checks were paid in the United States in 1995; that figure dropped to 36.6billion checks paid in 2003, according to the most recent Fed studies.