…calls for Govt to have better relations with Private Sector;
…revoke Parking meter contract;
…provide alternative employment before closing more sugar estates
The Central Corentyne Chambers of Commerce (CCCC) is the latest body to put the controversial State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) Bill under the microscope and has asserted that while they fully support government in its quest to recover state assets, they feel the Bill should be sent to the Select Committee in Parliament to have the contentious areas reviewed.
Moreover, the CCCC has articulated their concerns with the controversial parking meter contract, the closure of more sugar estates and government’s “unhealthy” relationship with the Private Sector, which, the body says, if not rectified can lead to more capital flight and less businesses operating in Guyana.
See CCCC’s full statement below:
States Asset Recovery Bill
At a recent meeting of the council, members strongly called for the government not to rush the state Assets Recovery bill through the National Assembly but like most controversial bills, it should be sent to a select committee where it can be examined in detail and consensus built on the way forward. We fully support government in its quest to recover all state assets that were misappropriated and members were asking why isn’t the government moving aggressively do so to date using existing laws.
From all the legal advice given to us, we are very concerned that the Sara bill has many contentious provisions and some may even be unconstitutional. Rushing this bill through will certainly result in it being challenged in the courts and result in protracted delays in its implementation. Most laymen do not understand some of the dangerous provisions of this Bill where an ordinary person can have their private assets seized by the government and they have to then resort to the courts to regain it, as what is state assets has not been defined in the bill. The nature of the politics of our country can result in this bill being a very potent tool at the disposal of politicians where citizens can be harassed and victimized. It is instructive to note that there is no country in Caricom with such a bill and the majestic powers that would be given to the head of Sara also has no equivalent anywhere in Caricom. The head of this entity would arguably have more powers than the Commissioner of Police, the DPP, and the Commissioner General of GRA which are all constitutional positions in their own right but would have to play second fiddle to the head of Sara and this is only one of the areas that has to be sorted out by a Select Committee.
We urge the government again to proceed with caution on this Bill, send it to a select committee and not allowing arrogance to prevail. In the meanwhile they should proceed to prosecute all those persons found misappropriating state assets.
Parking Meter Contract
The Chamber has also noted with great concern the continuous protest of citizens of Georgetown on the parking meter debacle. Georgetown like all the other towns in the country are part of Guyana of which the government is ultimately responsible for and we are puzzled as to why the government is not saying or doing anything in spite of continued protests by the citizens. This seems like an abdication of responsibility by central government, especially when it is clear to everyone else that the parking meter contract absolutely failed to meet any criteria of decency and transparency and should not have been sanctioned by the government. The central Corentyne chamber in principle is in support of affordable paid parking, but the present obnoxious contract should be revoked.
The proposed closure of the Skeldon and Rose Hall estates are very worrying for the future of Berbice of which many communities are closely intertwined with the estates. We also do understand the present situation facing the government where Guysuco has to be subsidized annually to the tune of Billions of dollars, undesirable as it is the government is duty bound to provide alternatives for the population. We do recall the government promise to Berbicians in the 2015 elections campaign that no estates would be closed and it is not as if the financial state of Guysuco at the time was unknown. So having acceded to power, solutions for the problems of Guysuco has to be found where before any estate is closed alternative employment has to be provided for the people.
Finally, we note the present unhealthy relationship between the government and the private sector where the perception of the government appears to be that everyone or every business is a tax evader and a cheat. Whilst we fully support government in its quest to collect all its taxes, and we do encourage all businesses to pay their fair share of taxes, we are saying that the ‘big stick’ approach by the government will only drive fear and uncertainty in the sector and possibly resulting in capital flight and a contraction of business. Cooler heads need to prevail and cordial dialogue needs to be reestablished with the Private Sector.
Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce