Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat confirmed Wednesday that the government has agreed to support 10 of 14 amendments proposed by the opposition APNU+AFC to the Local Content Bill.
He made the disclosure as he opened the highly anticipated debate on the Bill in the National Assembly Wednesday.
Bharrat said the government did not find favour with all the amendments proposed, particularly the one which asked that a Guyanese only be recognised by birth and not naturalisation or otherwise.
According to the Bill, Guyanese national means a citizen of Guyana.
The Opposition also called for an appeal process for Guyanese businesses and the publication of the full register of local companies as is contemplated by the Bill.
But the government has agreed to allow a Member of Parliament from the Opposition side of the House to sit on an inter-agency advisory committee.
The Committee shall consist of no less than seven members appointed by the President but the Opposition had also sought to remove some powers of the President and by extension the Executive and hand it to the National Assembly.
The President will also appoint a Chairperson and a Vice-Chairperson of the Committee from amongst the members of the Committee.
The members, to the drawn from several outlined agencies, will be appointed for a term of one year which term may be renewed by the President.
Importantly, Bharrat said the government had sought an audience with the Opposition prior to the debate of the Local Content Bill. That meeting never materialised as the Opposition asked for the matter to be addressed “on the floor,” Bharrat said.
Local content has been a highly ventilated topic but the government has assured of protecting the interest and prosperity of Guyanese.
“Local content is new to Guyana,” Bharrat told the National Assembly.
Sidestepping from his scripted speech to address the heckling from the Opposition benches, Bharrat talked up changes to the law after its passage.
“It wouldn’t be difficult to make changes, we have a listening ear but I want to remind you that the oil and gas sector is new to Guyana,” he stated.
“We need to be honest and straight up, we have challenges of our own, we lack capacity in many areas and there are services we need to build.
“We need to realise our shortcomings and build capacity… that I believe it is one of the high points of the Local Content Bill,” the Natural Resources Minister added.
He repeatedly committed to changes to the law which would include changes to the schedule that sets out targets to be implemented by the end of 2022 and the sectors from which Guyanese are expected to benefit from.
“We will keep changing that schedule and we will add different services to that schedule based on our capacity… as we build capacity, we are willing to make changes to the schedule.”
Bharrat said the government remains committed to working and listening to any stakeholder in the development of the oil and gas industry.