‘Citizens cannot be tenants in their own land’- PM Mottley defends local content


By Vishani Ragobeer


Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley has strongly defended local content provisions in the Caribbean, stating that citizens must be able to gainfully participate in the development of their countries.

The Prime Minister is one of the four Heads-of-State delivering remarks at the opening of the 2022 International Energy Conference and Expo being held at the Marriott Hotel at Kingston, Georgetown.

In her characteristic frank style of speaking, she told the hundreds of delegates and visitors in attendance that all stakeholders must be willing to have these frank engagements and dissect “inconvenient truths” on issues ranging from climate change to a fair global system.

She, however, expressed interest in commenting on local content provisions in the Caribbean.

“The day that we do not provide opportunities for our citizens who participate in active citizenship from being able to benefit from the patrimony of our countries, is the day we sow the seeds of destruction for our nations,” the Prime Minister said to a rousing round of applause from the audience.

Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley and other Heads of State at the opening of the 2022 International Energy Conference at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown (Photo: Keno George/February 15, 2022)

For context, the Head of the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) Gervase Warner, in a leaked email, raised concerns that Guyana’s new Local Content law may violate the free trade provisions of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

This is the central treaty of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Guyana is a member state.

Many local private sector players defended Guyana’s law, emphasising that it is a crucial tool to help Guyanese companies benefit from the new oil and gas industry but it has also been delicately crafted to allow foreign companies to meaningfully participate in continued commercial activity here.

Despite the pushback from the local private sector, the CPSO said it remained intent on engaging CARICOM and the Guyana government on the recently enacted Local Content law.

The Barbadian Prime Minister did not specifically reference this situation but alluded to “difficult conversations in CARICOM” that may include local content provisions.

And importantly, Prime Minister Mottley emphasised, “It is our duty to be able to smooth that over but to ensure that at no stage, as newly-independent nations of our world that we leave our citizens as tenants in their own land.”

In response to the barrage of criticisms, the CPSO had said that it does not claim to be the “arbiters of right and wrong on matters which appear to subtract from the settled rights emanating from the [Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas].”

This treaty led to the creation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). The CSME is an ambitious initiative that is expected to facilitate economic integration and the movement of goods, services and capital throughout the CARICOM without tariffs or other restrictions.

But, fully implementing the CSME has been hindered by the policies and laws of some CARICOM Member States.

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