…as House approves regulatory legislation
By Gary Eleazar
The house was last evening left divided on what initially seemed to be a relatively simple piece of legislation. Nonetheless there were enough parliamentarians to vote on behalf of the Bill enabling its passage through the National Assembly.
The legislation, namely the Guyana Livestock Development Authority Bill, will when enacted, see the creation of that body.
Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud who successfully piloted the Bill through the House said that it was to put in place the legal framework to ensure the development of the livestock industry in Guyana.
Persaud, in his presentation to the house, said that the legislation will be building on the growth made over the years, and seeks to have Guyana capitalize on the various opportunities available for the export of livestock.
The opposition however did not take too kindly to the legislation, accusing the Minister of seeking to place some level of political control over a primarily private sector-driven industry, more so in a free trade economy.
People’s National Congress Reform Member of Parliament Jennifer Wade opened the arguments for the opposition, and told the House that the Bill is counterproductive mainly because of what she called the “domineering Ministerial Authority” embedded in the Bill. “It is mind boggling to rationalize how the government can attempt to develop an industry that is so private sector-skewed by imposing so much governmental control,” said Wade.
She did point out that her party was heartened to see that the government has seen it fit to concentrate their effort to seriously manage and promote the interest of stakeholders involved with livestock, but cautioned that “sadly this endeavour is flawed.”
The opposition argued that while there will be a board of directors handling the affairs of the Guyana Livestock Development Authority, it is the Minister who appoints the vast majority of that body, coupled with the fact that the Minister has the authority to suspend the execution of any resolution or order of the board.
She stated that her party could not support the Bill in its present form.
Housing and Water Minister Irfaan Ali supported his party member’s push for the passage of the Bill.
Ali explained that it was the realization of a promise that was put forward in his party’s manifesto, questioning the opposition, “How can we argue against sustainable growth?”
He said that the PNC had 28 years to do what the PPP is trying to achieve for citizens but did not.
According to Ali, Guyana has an advantageous position to capitalize on the CARICOM food market pointing out that if the legislation was not in place to ensure that, it could be a lost opportunity.
Sheila Holder, Vice Chairperson of the Alliance For Change, accused the Agriculture Minister of vaguely outlining how the legislation will benefit the industry.
She too also questioned the authority that will be placed in the hands of the Minister, using a phrase coined by her colleague Khemraj Ramjattan saying, “this is indeed control-freakism,” adding that the people of Guyana are no longer easy to fool.
Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir defended the clauses embedded in the legislation giving certain powers to the Agriculture Minister, stating that, “the final authority has to rest with the state.”
In defence of the same clauses referred to, Nadir said that the position referred to was a constitutional office and not an individual.
Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition Robert Corbin in his presentation questioned why there is the need for such a body given that all of the functions of the Guyana Livestock Development Board were already vested in the mandate of the Agriculture Ministry.
According to Corbin, the administration was seeking to establish a top-heavy bureaucracy that will be politically controlled under the guise of an autonomous body.
When the legislation is enacted, the board will be tasked with providing a forum for communication among livestock farmers, traders and exporters; maintaining a register of livestock farmers, processors, traders and exporters; advising and influencing policy-makers; identifying and implementing the research, development and training needs and providing development opportunities; operating auction yards to facilitate the sale of livestock or livestock products; prescribing quality guidelines for the sale of livestock or livestock products; grading any livestock or livestock products; establishing and describing standards for the purpose of grading any livestock or livestock products as well as providing veterinary service to livestock farmers, establishing and maintaining surveillance systems, inspecting hatcheries and processing facilities and ensuring compliance with national and international animal health standards and guidelines, among other mandates.
Under the legislation also the Authority may, subject to the general or special directions of the Minister, assist and encourage the private sector in establishing and running projects in the livestock or livestock product industry.
When enacted, a person who wants to engage in the trade or export of livestock or process, trade or export of livestock products shall apply to the Authority for a licence to do so.
This is also one of the clauses that the opposition is vehemently against, especially since the application for licence shall be on a form determined by the Minister and accompanied by the prescribed fee.
The Authority may call on the applicant to show by documentary evidence that he is capable of engaging in the business for which he is seeking a licence, and satisfied after inspecting the premises, facilities and equipment and considering the application that the applicant is qualified, may grant the licence, specifying the terms and conditions under which the licence is granted.
At the end of the arguments back and forth in the House the Bill was passed without the support of the opposition.
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