Jun 25, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – The country’s Local Content Secretariat has not disclosed why it recently denied Trinidadian divested oil and gas support company, Ramps Logistics (Guyana) its local content certificate, but arguments around the Guyanese-linked partner not being ‘Guyanese enough’ is already making the rounds.
Ramps Logistics reported two days ago, that the livelihoods of some 400 workers are at risk, since it was refused a local content certificate to operate within the oil and gas sector.
It was discovered that Ramps was fined $20M by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) for failing to seek clearance for one of its motor vessels to depart Guyana with cargo and this could have contributed to the issue the company currently faces.
Ramps, has since made public its response to the GRA. But the dominating contention for most involved is the manner in which foreign companies are now using Guyanese nationals to fulfill their local content requirement for the company to be 51 percent locally owned.
Ramps provided detailed information regarding Deepak Lall, a Trinidadian born with strong Guyanese roots who purchased 51 percent of Ramps Guyana for US$1M, making it 51 percent Guyanese owned. The issue however, is that Lall’s father and grandfather are Guyanese and he, outside of the oil and gas company had very little to do with the country.
Lall would have received his Guyanese passport last year. He was described as a Guyanese national, but some believe this was conveniently pursued to fulfill the 51 percent requirement.
The Georgetown Chambers of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) in a public missive on Thursday had called scenarios such as the one explained above “fronting” or “rent-a-citizen”.
The body said that local participation in the oil sector must be done, “in a manner that engenders meaningful and genuine partnerships” to ensure that benefits not just go to Guyanese owners, but to Guyana as well. “Fronting has the potential to reduce the amount of value which accrues to Guyana and runs counter to the spirit and intent of the Local Content Act,” they stated.
Eminent local businessman Captain Gerry Gouveia views the matter differently. He believes that by law, a “Guyanese is Guyanese” regardless of how they became a citizen and that no Guyanese is more Guyanese than another.
Gouveia who currently holds a government position at State House, said he has not been associated with his company, Roraima Airways since taking the post, but his son has a partnership with Ramps Guyana called Arapaima Logistics Inc. providing cargo, ocean freight, and air logistics.
Gouveia, who served both the GCCI and Private Sector Commission (PSC) as President and Chairman respectively, said that President Irfaan Ali, GoInvest and the Private Sector have gone global encouraging overseas based Guyanese to return home but we have become arrogant and inhospitable to foreign businesses now that we have found oil.
According to Gouveia, at one point, the Private Sector’s slogan was to “remove the red tape and Lay out the red carpet” for Investors, as part of creating an enabling environment to welcome foreign direct investment.
“We at that time wanted to create jobs for our young people, proper paying jobs but the local Private Sector did not have the capacity to create enough jobs for our young people coming out of the school systems every year, so the young people were leaving for other countries looking for jobs.”
We cannot be changing the rules, the meaning and moving the goal post as a matter of subjective and convenient personal preferences,” Gouveia said in a Facebook post.
He was adamant, “we must set out in very clear and unambiguous terms what is required to qualify and meet the local content bench marks.”
According to Gouveia, “we should not have to be rich or well known or well connected for a foreign company looking to include Guyanese in their business as a means of meeting the local content criteria, to be invited and become included as an ordinary Guyanese citizen…”
He posited that President Ali is committed to creating a Guyana, where every Guyanese, “regardless of where you came from geographically, your race, your gender, your political preferences, your religious belief, must have equal access to the opportunities created by good fortune in Guyana.”
As such, he told this publication, the fact that Deepak, the investor from Trinidad only received his Guyanese passport last year does not matter.
He said, the man is Guyanese by heritage and it should not matter when he chose to get his documentation.
According to Gouveia, it doesn’t matter where the person grew up, or how long they became a citizen, “all citizens are equal.”
A senior Private Sector executive told the newspaper that Ramps is not the only company denied the local content certificate.
“We were told that a number of companies were denied.” The private sector personality noted however, that Ramps should get an explanation as to why they were denied, “but they are not the only company the secretariat is dealing with.
The official noted that private persons are in support of the vetting of the companies by the secretariat because if foreign companies get around the local content provisions easily, it would mean fewer benefits for Guyana.
Ramps Logistics is one of the companies accused of bundling logistics contracts to secure more work. The Private Sector official said that logistics is a wide area with various services and the bundling of logistics contracts means only one contractor is providing a large amount of the services.
As for the GRA $20M fine, Ramps Communication Officer said that the matter was “completely settled between the GRA and company’s legal team.”
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