May 06, 2018 News
– Says weak judiciary represents another drag on the economy
As Guyana continues to prepare for first oil in 2020, many, including the skeptics, are expecting tangible increases to their livelihoods with the additional revenue. But, there are several examples around the world to show that additional State revenue does not always transcend to improved conditions for the masses.
Former Member of Parliament (MP) and qualified oil and gas consultant, Charles Ramson, said that if Guyana is serious about development, there must be a strict and organized movement towards the strengthening of the State and its agencies.
“It is a fact,” he said, “that Guyana cannot record any major improvements unless there is reform.”
Ramson said that that all arms of the State—Judiciary, Legislature and Executive—are in trouble.
“We know all too well about the many problems with the Government, so let me tell you about the judiciary and our legislative arm (Parliament),” said Ramson.
Ramson said that the Judiciary and the Legislative branches are supposed to keep the Executive in check “but those institutions, in their current state, will breed a political elite having virtual exclusive benefit from Guyana’s oil and gas wealth. That is why there is no vested interest from the government to reform them,” said Ramson.
Ramson said it is a mistake to think that the judiciary is not a critical component for economic activity and growth, which is what will make everyone benefit from the oil and gas revenue.
The Attorney-at-law explained that every commercial case, property or estate dispute, or even delayed estate grant, is keeping capital out of the economy.
Ramson said that the huge backlog of cases and appeals slows the functioning of the market, discourages investment both local and foreign, and damages confidence in the system as a lawful dispute mechanism.
Ramson quickly pointed to the fact that there are currently matters that have been waiting for over five years for a first hearing. Ramson said that even after the hearing, it can take a long time to get a decision, “in some instances years. Then when an appeal is filed, which happens frequently, you can add another five years just to hear the appeal.”
The Attorney-at-law said, “This thing became so bad that a law had to be passed in 2009 for judges to write a decision within three months, from the conclusion of a case and in many instances, it is still not happening.
“At one point, judges were being paid extra just to deal with backlog but the problem is not the judge. In most instances, the problem is that the system is an inherently outdated and designed for far less persons accessing the system and a less litigious society. The system therefore institutionalizes backlog.”
Ramson told Kaieteur News that the new Civil Procedure Rules will speed up matters that go to a hearing but not final conclusion. He said, however, that this is only one cog in the wheel. “Some of these matters are simple disputes which could be dealt with almost instantaneously but they get lost in the backlog. If most of the persons employed in the system are doing their job but we still end up with a backlog then the problem is not the personnel; it is the system.”
Ramson then turned his attention to the Parliament. Ramson said, “We recently heard a Member of Parliament saying he was too busy with court to attend a Select Committee meeting to raise an objection to a particular clause which has no place in the modern world.
“But he is not the only MP who does not attend scheduled meetings or read Bills or do quality research for technical subjects. And this is not the first time; this happens more often than not.”
With the coming of oil, Ramson said that Parliament can no longer be a part-time job for MPs.
“It has to become a full time job like what happens in other countries.” The Attorney noted that Parliamentarians, whether in opposition or Government, are responsible for serious work on behalf of the people and should not be paid differently for doing the same job—which is supposed to be representing the people faithfully.
Further, Ramson noted that the subject matters covered in Bills are sometimes very technical. He said that MPs need to have the research personnel to support the quality representation needed for a modern Guyana.
“Some MPs only speak once or twice a year in Parliament and have effectively become persons just holding seats to vote with the party which put them there. How is this quality representation that is needed for the vast majority of Guyanese to benefit from good governance of Guyana’s new found wealth on the horizon?”
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