By Vishani Ragobeer
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall SC says that Guyana runs the risk of losing investors without a sound business environment and that is why efforts are being made to update many of the country’s laws or introduce legislation.
The AG said this on Wednesday during a virtual forum on the rule of law and business, organised by the American Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AMCHAM) – Guyana.
Nandlall highlighted that there is a nexus between the rule of law and a competitive business environment but also between the rule of law and the foundation of economic and social progress in any society. And cognisant of this, he alluded to legislative changes that are being made to ensure that Guyana does have an environment conducive for business activity.
“It must be clear that no serious investor will pump money into a country where property rights are not respected and are not accorded strong protection, and where there is no independent, fair and competent judiciary.
“Neither will there be an atmosphere conducive to competitive business in any society where there is social disorder, absence of individual rights and freedoms, or where the government is not elected by the will of the majority of the electorate and operates above the law,” the Attorney General underscored.
According to Nandlall, what has happened in Guyana over the years has illustrated the interconnectedness of the law and commercial activity. In times of political turmoil and mismanagement, he said, there was less commercial activity and business buzz.
He, however, alluded to the government’s efforts to foster a more welcoming and conducive business environment.
SERIES OF LEGISLATION
In an invited comment after the forum, Nandlall told the News Room that the government is working on a series of legislation that will be amended to make doing business much easier in Guyana.
This includes introducing a modern Arbitration Bill and building modern arbitration architecture to allow companies to settle their disputes outside of the Courts. Importantly, too, Nandlall said that the government will be introducing novel E-transaction and E-payment Bills that will allow for payments other than cash and will allow for the conduct of transactions via an electronic platform.
He could not give a specific timeline for the introduction of the pieces of legislation but said, “this is a work-in-progress, it is part of our legislative agenda.”
Meanwhile, at the AMCHAM forum, US Ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch made a subtle call for legislative changes to foster a more conducive business environment.
“If you were serious about peaceful, democratic transition in 2020 then you need to be serious about the economic manifestation of the rule of law now,” she stated firmly.
To this end, she said that the US looks forward to a finalised local content policy and the amended Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) to aid with the management of the burgeoning oil and gas sector.
Importantly, she stated: “The local content policy should strike a balance between protecting Guyana’s human capital while creating a welcoming environment for international people to spur innovation and diversify the economy.”
And, if done correctly, Lynch said that the policy would foster increased partnerships and joint ventures that will able both local and foreign businesses to share best practices and profit together.
She also advised the government to prudently manage the country’s economy and ensure that the wealth benefits all Guyanese.
“The Ali government is very aware that without the right guardrails in place, unscrupulous officials and individuals could misappropriate the oil wealth and direct it away from Guyanese citizens,” she said.