Gov’t, Opposition meeting on Local Content Bill foiled as Harmon a no-show

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A meeting between the government and opposition to discuss the APNU+AFC’s proposed amendments to the Local Content Bill had to be called off as Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon did not show up.

The governing People’s Progressive Party/ Civic in a Facebook post confirmed that the meeting was scheduled to take place Wednesday morning ahead of a sitting of the National Assembly but when approached by the News Room, Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones denied that any meeting was set.

The News Room, however, was reliably informed that the meeting was slated to be attended by Harmon, Jones, David Patterson and Annette Ferguson.

According to information reaching the News Room, while Patterson and Jones turned up at the meeting in the precincts of the Arthur Chung Conference Center where a  sitting of the National Assembly is underway, Harmon and Ferguson did not show up.

The government representatives would have included Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira and Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh among others.

The meeting was postponed just after 10:00hrs. In an informal conversation, Patterson told the News Room that the invitation from the government only came half an hour before the start time of the meeting. He said it was being rushed mere hours before a debate of the Bill.

Additionally, Alliance For Change (AFC) Member of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan also admitted that a meeting was set but he contended that the APNU+AFC is interested in engaging the government in a more structured form.

“I would like to see this Bill be put in a Special Select Committee for the purposes of trashing out our various points of differences and coming to a consensus,” Ramjattan told the News Room.

The APNU+AFC on Tuesday released the amendments it will be seeking to have the government make to the Bill before its passage although the Bill can be passed with the government’s simple majority in the National Assembly.

Among the Opposition’s proposed amendments is for a Guyanese to only be recognised as someone born here and not through naturalisation.

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.

The APNU+AFC’s proposed amendments also seek to remove some appointing powers from the President and the Executive.

According to the government, overall, the Local Content Bill seeks to prioritise Guyanese nationals and Guyanese companies in the procurement of goods and services for the enhancement of the value chain of the petroleum sector and to enable local capacity development.

It seeks also to provide for the investigation, supervision, coordination, monitoring and evaluation of, and participation in, local content in Guyana.

Another objective is to promote competitiveness and encourage the creation of related industries that will sustain the social and economic development of Guyana.

The Bill proposes the setting up of a Local Content Secretariat that will develop and maintain a Local Content Registers of Guyanese nationals for employment and Guyanese nationals and Guyanese companies from which goods and services may be procured.

The Bill proposes fines and other disciplinary measures for companies that falsely represent to be Guyanese companies to benefit from provisions under the Local Content Act.

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