Local content certification: Govt putting systems in place to address companies “acting in bad faith” – Bharrat

Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat made this remark at a Private Sector forum on Local content

Government will be putting systems in place to address instances in which persons are showing up with Guyanese citizenship and taking advantage of the local content opportunities – a situation which Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat has labelled as acting in bad faith.

Comments from the Natural Resources Minister came in light of a court battle with Ramps Logistics (Guyana) in which Government was ordered to issue a Local Content Certificate to the company. Government has complied with the court order, even as it seeks to appeal the ruling.

The company, whose parent company is Trinidadian, had initially applied for certification in April, but that application was refused on June 8, after it allegedly had failed to meet the requirements of the Local Content Act 2021.

However, the company had said it divested 51 per cent ownership of its Guyana operations to Trinidad-based investor Deepak Lall, who has Guyanese parentage, to bring its operations in compliance with the Local Content Laws.

Finding that the company had indeed met the requirements for being a “Guyanese company”, the Chief Justice on Friday ordered that the company be issued the certificate.

Law-abiding Government

Minister Bharrat explained that, as a law-abiding Government, the certificate was issued, but not without apprehensions.

“We issued the certificate because we are law-abiding and we respect the rule of law. However, there are reservations by the Government, and there are concerns by the Government that people cannot show up, or fall out of the sky, or appear after 70 or 80 years and say, ‘I’m Guyanese to the bone’. It cannot work like that!” the subject Minister voiced.

According to him, Government expects companies to act in good faith, and not take advantage of opportunities that have been set aside for Guyanese. However, Minister Bharrat said such matters will be addressed as they arise.

“We expected people to act in good faith. We expected companies to act in good faith too, and not to resurrect people who were not born (here) and apply for a passport claiming they’re Guyanese. We expected some amount of professionalism, we expected maturity, and we expected that companies would have acted in good faith; obviously they didn’t.

“We saw what played out, and we’re going to ensure that there are systems in place to deal with these matters as they arise. We can’t have people holding a Guyana passport but never pay a dollar tax in this country to develop this country to where it is today,” the Minister asserted.

Moreover, the Minister added that Government has put forward an open-door policy for investors, since there are many opportunities in the country for parties to benefit from.

“We haven’t locked any foreign company out of Guyana. Some of them might run to the courts, but we are not unfair. Any(body) who knows the oil and gas sector knows that there are hundreds or thousands of services that are necessary to service the oil and gas sector,” he said.

He has also said Government must ensure that its citizens are able to capitalize on the windfall of opportunities in the country.

“We’re serious about people trying now to acquire Guyanese passports just because of some family down the line, people who are not even born in Guyana. It is only fair that us here, who stayed and worked and toiled to develop this country, that we should benefit first… We’re not afraid to speak on it, and our position is clear: the Local Content Legislation was designed so that it brings benefit to Guyana, Guyanese and Guyanese businesses,” he posited.