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Guyana looking to establish beneficial ownership register

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Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat has revealed that the Government is moving to create a beneficial ownership register.

This was disclosed during his address to Guyana Extractive Industry Transparency Week (GYEITW) on Monday. Mr. Bharrat told the virtual participants that the government has issued a request for proposals to solicit expressions of interest for a consultancy to establish a beneficial ownership register.

Beneficial ownership is a term in domestic and international commercial law which refers to the natural person(s) who ultimately own(s) or control(s) a company.

When Guyana became an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) candidate in 2017, it had agreed to implement the Beneficial Ownership Requirement 2.5 in the EITI Standard. This lays out a number of requirements to ensure transparency in the extractive sector’s management.

Guyana’s Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, had said the government is in full support of this initiative. In fact, during a press engagement in 2020, he had told reporters that, “Every beneficial owner should be known and if the [oil] blocks change hands, then they should update this… We [should] know at all times who owns the different blocks or what shares of the blocks.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Bharrat, who also has an oversight role for Guyana’s oil and gas sector, highlighted that oil’s entry into Guyana’s natural resources portfolio brings with it renewed hope for Guyana to finally realize its post-colonial goals and aspirations.

Although this new prospect may be exciting, the natural resources minister was quick to note that it is also the subject of great scrutiny.

“This enjoins the government,” the official relayed, “to ensure that our resources are exploited in a prudent and sustainable way for the benefit of all Guyanese… Proper stewardship in the management of our resources will guarantee that there is a tangible realization of our vision.”

As part of the Government’s transparency efforts, Mr. Bharrat alluded to several projects that it has and will initiate to ensure good governance of the natural resources sector.

He referenced that during the 2021 budget presentation, the government had revealed its commitment to pursue an active legislative agenda that will implement oversight measures that will enhance transparency and accountability.

As a member of the transparency body, the government has already prepared and made publicly available, its first and second EITI reports. The administration is currently seeking an independent consultant to draft the terms of reference for the third report, Mr. Bharrat shared.

Furthermore, the government is already en route to procuring a legal firm that will assist Guyana in drafting legislation to overhaul the country’s outdated petroleum laws. Mr. Bharrat indicated that these newer legislations will incorporate mechanisms that will bolster transparency and accountability initiatives.

“As a testimony to our unwavering commitment to transparency and accountability, Government has vouched to not spend any revenue gained from our petroleum resources until our Natural Resources Fund is recalibrated in a way that guarantees the transparent management in an arm’s length way from political interference,” he said. “From the moment the Government commences spending of the petroleum revenues, Guyanese will be comforted in knowing that transparency is our guiding star.”

Guyana Extractive Sector Transparency Week with virtual sessions, will provide relevant information, create awareness, and stimulate public debate. The event, which lasts from June 7-11, aims to strengthen existing disclosure initiatives and promote future ones. It is funded by USAID and implemented by the Pan-American Development Foundation.

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