Jul 01, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – Opposition Parliamentarian and Former Minister of Public Works, David Patterson is of the view that the Government of Guyana could have avoided pitfalls of the Local Content Bill (LCB) had they heeded the calls for amendments when the issues were raised in the National Assembly.
His comments come even as concerns are being raised over one Trinidad-owned company’s ploy to benefit from Guyana’s local content provisions. Ramps Logistics Guyana Inc. has complained that it was denied a local content certificate even though the company is 51 percent Guyanese owned, given its Chairman Trinidad born Deepak Lall, has strong connections to Guyana through his patriarchal family. Lall was granted citizenship in Guyana just after three months.
Alluding to the scenario, Patterson said that some of the issues being highlighted in the media could have been avoided if the government had taken into account the proposed amendments to the LCB before it became law. In a letter to the editor, the former minister noted that several issues including the need for Guyana Citizenship Act to be amended and a completely new immigration policy to be in place before the LCB is passed was raised.
“The intention of the law basically is for Guyanese to have the benefit of the oil and gas industry. Our laws are very loose, since it never envisioned this oil bonanza, so an example is that we currently allow dual citizenship, so all that any of the say US companies operating here, can apply for citizenship, be granted same, and then qualify for the full benefit of the Local Content provisions,” Patterson told Kaieteur News in a follow up interview.
He therefore believes that the full purpose of the proposed law cannot be realized until a holistic immigration policy is put in place. Referencing, the Ramps Logistics, Patterson lamented that the local content law is really useless if anyone can go through the backdoor…and be granted citizenship in three months.”
Pointing to US, the Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) noted or a Guyanese to become an American citizen, he has to go there, live in that country for a set time (say three years) once then can he apply for citizenship – if he qualifies – this is true for most countries with local content laws.
He continued, “So it was recommended that until we amend holistically the Citizenship laws, that the beneficial persons be limited to the existing group of Guyanese citizens –those can be changed, which would allow persons who have a right to become citizens because of their descendants to apply, however it would also be a requirement that they live in the country for some time (say two years) before same is granted.”
The A Partnership for National Unity +Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Parliamentarian also pointed to the other challenges that were highlighted regarding the route that the Government was taking during the debate on the LCB Bill in the National Assembly, last December.
According to Patterson, the proposed amendment was for any application that was rejected to have the right of appeal to an independent review panel appointed by the minister. The proposal, he said was for the Minister to appoint a panel comprising of not less than three persons, one of whom must be from civil society – such an amendment would have gone a long way in addressing the current impasse between the secretariat and the logistics operator.
Patterson noted that a submission of proposed amendments was made to the LCB, to avoid some of the most oblivious pitfalls. “All the proposed amendments were rejected by the Government in their rush to pass this bill and their continued posture of a lack of inclusivity.”
“…There was much laughter and heckling from the Government side [of the House], when the issue of the proposed LCB conflicting with Article 7 of Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas – an issue that has since come to light and is yet to be resolved and which may eventually engage our apex court,” Patterson added, while emphasizing that all recommendations which would have gone a long way to providing a clear path to dealing with local content issues now and in the future.
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