Monday, February 6, 2023

Guyana private sector calls for expansion of categories ring-fenced under local content law

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The Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Thursday hosted a forum to solicit feedback from its members on the strengths and weaknesses of the Local Act of Guyana, which is poised for its first periodic review.

The event was held at the Pegasus luxury suites and corporate centre in Kingston, Georgetown.

Among those in attendance were Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat; Senior Petroleum Coordinator, Bobby Gossai Jr.; Legal Officer at the Local Content Secretariat, Michael Munroe; and Chairman of PSC’s Local Content Advisory Group, Shyam Nokta.

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During his address at the opening of the forum, PSC Chairman, Paul Cheong was keen to recall that the business group has always been a proponent of local content development in the oil and gas industry.

Following the enactment of the Local Content Law in December 2021, Cheong said the Commission had established a Local Content Advisory Group which has been meeting monthly with the Local Content Secretariat to discuss key issues. He said these ranged from addressing unreasonable payment periods for small and medium-sized businesses, contract bundling and fronting, to getting companies registered.

Since the implementation of the First Schedule of the Local Content Act which ring fences 40 categories of work that must see Guyanese participation to varying degrees, Cheong said there have been several observations about the ability of Guyanese to meet, and in some cases, exceed targets.

He said, “We believe it’s time to expand those 40 categories. The capacity and skills of Guyana have grown. Many companies have invested in and established partnerships. The Commission is pushing for more opportunities for Guyanese businesses. It is now up to us to up our game to deliver quality services in keeping with the standards and requirements of the oil and gas sector.”

The PSC Chair also welcomed the government’s recent statement regarding the drafting of regulations and guidelines to accompany the Local Content Act. He said, “We stand ready to work with the government to ensure that these are put in place at the earliest possible time so as to enhance and strengthen the legislation.”

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Even with the current legislation, Cheong said enforcement of all its provisions is needed.

Toward this end, he called on the government to appoint a Local Content Advisory Committee since the PSC already has its member for nomination. According to the legislation, that committee shall consist of no less than seven members to be selected from various government agencies and civil society groups. Its function is to support the Secretariat in the discharge of its duties in an advisory capacity.

Gossai Jr. was keen to note that government sees the private sector as a key partner in advancing local content development and is therefore eager to hear its feedback on the law’s first year of implementation.

He said, “Today’s forum is to help determine the next best steps to strengthen the law and learn what can be provided and measured in Guyana. The measured approach to local content is critical for us because we want to be able to show stakeholders the impacts of the oil and gas investment.”

For procurement activities measured thus far, he said local content spend totals US$310 million from January to June. To date, he said there are over 400 companies on the local content register. He said this will no doubt increase as the government continues to improve the legislation.

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