When the Local Content Bill is signed into law, the Ministry of Natural Resources will move immediately to set up and operationalize the Local Content Secretariat.
The Secretariat will be based at the Ministry of Natural Resources and will be primarily responsible for the monitoring of companies involved in the oil and gas sector to ensure their adherence to the Local Content Laws.
In presenting the Bill for a second reading in the National Assembly this morning, Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat explained that the Secretariat will be serving a key role in the enforcement of the legislation governing local content.
According to Minister Bharrat, “the bill speaks to the creation of a Local Content Secretariat which will be headed by a Director. And Mr. Speaker, upon the passage of this bill in the National Assembly today with the support of all and the assent of the President, it means that we will start to create this unit called the Local Content Secretariat…the first task of the Local Content Secretariat will be to start to create the registers”.
He said one of those registers will allow persons seeking employment in the oil and gas sector to have their names included in a database for the companies that will be hiring.
It was explained that under the Local Content legislation, companies will have to have 51% Guyanese ownership, with 75% of the managerial staff being Guyanese and 90% of the other staff must also be Guyanese.
“That is the length we went to ensure our Guyanese brothers and sisters are beneficiaries in the oil and gas sector”, Bharrat said.
He also noted that there are strict provisions to ensure companies follow the rules of the legislation.
The Minister of Natural Resources also announced that the Government had accepted 11 of the 14 amendments to the bill that were proposed by the APNU+AFC Opposition.
Mr. Bharrat said although the Opposition’s amendments to the Bill were only submitted on Tuesday, many of them have been accepted and are now included in the Bill.
“We have spent over a year consulting with various groups across the country, especially the private sector, the operators, and civil society. The Local Content Bill that is presented to the National Assembly is a Bill that represents the views of all those who were consulted. It is a working document. It is a living document. No Local Content Bill can remain static in any country in the world. Noting in the Local Content Bill is cast in stone because as we continue to assess our capabilities and capacity, we will have to change targets and make changes to the schedule”, Minister Bharrat said.
In offering the Opposition’s support of the Local Content Bill, Opposition Member of Parliament, David Patterson said he believes there should have been more discussions on some of the contents of the Bill, as he fears some sections may clash with international agreements that Guyana has signed onto.
“Nowhere in this bill is any reference made to our obligations under this treaty (CARICOM Treaty)…We in the Opposition would like assurances from the Government that our country will not face any legal challenges from our CARICOM sisters and brothers after the passage of the bill”, Patterson said.
He noted that there have been concerns expressed already that the new bill may be in contravention of the CARICOM Treaty of Chargarumus.
In response, Attorney General Anil Nandlall said the Local Content Bill is comprehensive.
“This bill is a work in progress and it is not the end-all and that is why we have the schedule which has ministerial discretion and we will change it”, Nandlall said.
It was noted during the debate that there will be close monitoring for adherence to the legislation since Guyana is new to the oil and gas sector and will be continuing its moves to build capacity for the sector.
The Private Sector Commission, the Chamber of Commerce, and other civil society groups have welcomed legislation to ensure the oil companies and other companies involved in the sector pay attention to local content in their operations.