Historic Local Content Bill passed with amendments after rigorous debate
After 15 speakers and more than six hours of heated debate in the National Assembly on Wednesday, the Local Content Bill was passed into law and now only awaits the assent of President Irfaan Ali.
It was passed with the government’s simple majority in the House but not before the Members of Parliament from the governing People’s Progressive Party defended the Bill in a debate that ended with that side agreeing to 10 of 14 amendments proposed by the Opposition APNU+AFC Coalition.
In a process that lasted an additional hour, the Bill, with 26 clauses, was considered clause by clause in Committee and passed with amendments.
The Opposition voted against some of the government’s amendments in Committee but abstained on the final vote to pass the Bill altogether.
Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat opened and closed the debate and repeatedly assured that the government was only interested in moving the oil and gas sector forward in a manner that will ensure benefit for every Guyanese.
Bharrat thanked members on both sides of the House for their contributions even as he agreed with his colleagues that the Bill should not be sent to a Parliamentary Special Select Committee for further examination.
The government contended that the time for consultations and examination of the Bill has passed. Bharrat committed that they will continue consultation after the Bill is passed, describing it as a living document.
“There is a fear among us about sending this Bill to a Special Select Committee… we don’t trust the Opposition when it comes to sending Bills to Special Select Committees,” Bharrat said as he wrapped up the debate.
He recalled that several Bills sent to Special Select Committees while the APNU+AFC Coalition was in government (2015 – 2020); those Bills, he said, included the Petroleum Commission Bill, the Animal Welfare Bill, the Food and Safety Bill and the Education Bill and according to Bharrat, these Bills languished there.
“… and where are these bills today?” the Natural Resources Minister quizzed even as he dismissed the Opposition’s claim that it was not consulted on the Bill.
He accused the Opposition of wasting time, grandstanding and attempting to score cheap political points.
Bharrat recapped the contribution of the Opposition where he said they spoke glowingly of sole traders and small businesses but dismissed those cries of concerns as being opportunistic in nature.
“The very Opposition while in government for five years did nothing for these people… they also talk about indigenous peoples but I want to say that the indigenous communities were developed the most under the PPP administration,” he added.