By Kurt Campbell
Chairman of the Trade and Investment Committee of Guyana’s Private Sector Commission (PSC) Ramesh Dookhoo on Tuesday said that some foreign companies have begun manipulating systems put in place to ensure Guyanese benefit from oil proceeds under the new Local Content Act.
Dookhoo, while speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), said “already we are seeing foreign companies making staff members shareholders in the company and doing other manipulative things to qualify for the local content register.”
The Local Content Act is very specific on who a Guyanese is and what constitutes a local company. Once qualified, citizens and local companies can find themselves on a register with specific benefits guaranteed.
But Dookhoo fears foreign companies were finding a way around it.
To this end, he called on the Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat, who was present at the luncheon and under whose control the sector falls, to give more authority to the Local Content Secretariat.
“The authority given to the local content secretariat has to be deeper, it has to be associated with the Companies Act of Guyana and they must have more authority to investigate companies,” Dookhoo emphasised.
Speaking to a Trinidadian private sector delegation attending the luncheon and headed by Dr. Ramesh Ramdeen, the PSC official further noted: “I would like you to take back the message, our friends from TT. Let us tell our companies not to encourage this.”
Guyana and Trinidad have been at loggerheads both at the government and private sector levels in recent weeks in a long verbal exchange that was sparked the moment Guyana passed its Local Content Act.
The CARICOM Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) has also threatened to challenge Guyana’s Local Content Act.
Dookhoo said Guyana’s private sector was ready to embrace the private sector in Trinidad but it must be done on Guyana’s terms.
“Don’t be disrespectful to us, don’t be disrespectful of our laws… You have more deadly local content laws than we have,” he added.
Only recently, another local private sector body had reason to call Trinidad out over its discrimination of Guyana when exporting to that country.
To this end, Dookhoo argued that there was a greater level of respect in the pipeline for the Trinidadian private sector if they were to advocate when meeting with their government for a change in some of the things that affect Guyana’s exports to the Twin Island Republic.
“…like your illegal honey legislation which are on the books and going on for years and years.
“Every year at COTED, it’s back on the agenda and your minister will come and say ‘yes we are looking at it’… you have to push your minister like we are going to push our minister just now,” he added.
Dookhoo said efforts to engage regional governments at the bilateral level to remove some of the barriers to trade have so far seen little success.
“When Trinidad recognises the trade barriers for Guyana trying to export, we will respect you more and embrace you tighter than we are right now.”