“It is just not right” – Deodat Indar on foreign companies mopping up opportunities here
The former President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI), Deodat Indar, on Wednesday lamented that foreign companies, particularly those from the Caribbean region, are coming to Guyana and “mopping up” all of the opportunities springing from the budding oil and gas industry.
“Guyanese always behave like we gotta do the Treaty of Chaguaramas to the ‘T’ or else we gon go to hell; but damn with that, I’m sorry to say that, because if I go to Trinidad, I can’t go and set up my business, and I can’t do what they coming [here and do]. If I go to Barbados, or the U.S., or any other country, you can’t go and do the things we see happening here. Somebody needs to stand up and move out the politics and move back all the grand standing and call a spade a spade. It is just not right!” Indar contended.
At the time delivering a presentation at a public panel discussion at Duke Lodge on Wednesday, on the third draft of the Local Content Policy (LCP) which was recently released by the Ministry of the Presidency’s Department of Energy, Indar noted that while this third draft is a “step up” from the previous two, there are still several issues with the document.
He explained that one of the issues has to do with the ‘test of locality’ and the definition of local companies. According to the former GCCI President, a local company cannot be one that is recently established, which is the case with many of what he referred to as ‘shop fronts’; that is, small companies being established with the ‘big guns’ behind them.
Indar noted that before the LOC was in the pipeline, the GCCI had drafted a policy of its own, which outlined the four ‘test of locality’ components to determine a local company.
“A Guyanese company can’t be somebody just off the radar, who go and register something at the High Court,” he noted.
Indar advanced that the residency requirement of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Income Tax Act is ‘183 days in Guyana’. That, he noted, is archaic.
“It only deals with individuals, not institutions; so what you have are laws in Guyana that are draconian, and the oil and gas activity and level development is 100 years up. How you gonna work like that? Those things have to change, and (you have to) deal with what you have in the country,” he stressed.
He posited that local content needs to be looked at in the context of now, and not in the future.
“I’m not anti-foreign business, but you have a lot of foreign businesses that are here and are mopping up every single thing, and Guyanese are left to watch it happen and can’t do anything,” he posited.
Private sector bodies have been in the forefront of local stakeholders pushing for a Local Content Policy, especially since oil production is expected to commence in the first quarter of next year. In fact, earlier this week, the GCCI lamented the sloth attending preparation to regulate the oil and gas industry.
The Local Content Policy would guide the State in guarding against local companies being bypassed for the awarding of contracts and services in preference for foreign companies and workers.
Over the past weeks, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had also raised concerns about foreign investors coming here and striking underhand deals with the caretaker coalition Government.
Two week ago, Jagdeo had disclosed that ‘carpetbagger’ investors, including some from Trinidad, are entering into secret deals with Government and are cleaning up prime real estate in Guyana.
But his statement did not sit well with some foreigners looking to come and invest here, particularly those within the Caribbean region. In fact, days later, a spokesperson from the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the comments made by the Guyanese politician is “currently being discussed.”
However, the Opposition Leader last week defended his remarks by saying that there is nothing wrong with foreign investors coming here, but he insisted they should be transparent in their transactions.
“(We don’t want) carpetbaggers flowing through here and, before we know it, there are no opportunities for our people; and that is what is being done. Not that I have anything against Trinidadians or anyone else coming here as investors, but what I have problems with is when this Government — in this period of illegality and (in)a caretaker role — went to an Investors’ Conference in Trinidad paid by taxpayers, and after the investors conference, was working out private deals,” Jagdeo stated.
According to the Opposition Leader, investors were giving money to Government officials who went to the Investors’ Conference in Trinidad last month, and in exchange they were being given tracts of lands in prime locations across Guyana, including at Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara, Wales on the West Bank of Demerara, and even along the alignment of the East Bank to East Coast bypass road.
He noted, too, that negotiations for the land that was earmarked for the now cancelled Specialty Hospital are ongoing, or the land has already been reallocated.
Jagdeo had previously disclosed that many ‘carpetbagger’ investors are coming here to take advantage of underhand deals, and are benefiting from land giveaways at a time when the Government should be in a caretaker mode.
The Opposition Leader noted that this situation is particularly worrying especially in the absence of a Local Content Policy to protect Guyanese interests.
“Let me tell you something about local content: Before the Government changes, almost all of the opportunities that are gonna be available for our people are gonna be gone… There is no Local Content Policy. We will become second class citizens in this country because this Government doesn’t care, and is not looking out for Guyanese, and is part of these deals,” he stressed.
The Opposition Leader noted thus, “We have to have a Local Content Policy — within the month of a new PPP government — that emphasises Guyanese benefitting from these things.”