Bills, financial papers approved at Ocean View sitting of parliament

Stabroek News
December 6, 2002

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The National Assembly yesterday passed two bills and approved two financial papers at the first sitting of the Second Session of the Eighth Parliament at the Ocean View International Hotel Convention Centre.

The sitting was staged at the hotel because the roof of the Parliament building is being repaired. The Assembly also approved the members of the ten-member Committee of Selection, which is chaired by Speaker of the National Assembly, Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran. The members are: Ministers Reepu Daman Persaud, Gail Teixeira, Dr Henry Jeffrey, Feroze Mohamed and Donald Ramotar, (PPP/C); Robert Corbin, Clarissa Riehl and Lance Carberry (PNC/R) and Sheila Holder (GAP/WPA).

The 28 government ministers and members and the lone opposition member, GAP/WPA's Shirley Melville, unanimously approved the Fiscal Enactments (Amendment) Bill 2002, the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2002, and the Fisheries Bill 2002.

Finance Minister Saisnarine Kowlessar, Local Government and Regional Development Minister, Harripersaud Nokta and Fisheries, Crops and Livestock Minister, Satyadeow Sawh, respectively, piloted the three pieces of legislation through their various stages.

Other business conducted at yesterday's sitting was the tabling of the Land Registry (Amendment) Bill 2002 by Attorney-General Doodnauth Singh SC and the Kidnapping Bill 2002 tabled by Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj.

Kowlessar's bill removes the 10% on hotel rooms at registered tourism resorts to boost their competitiveness; reduces the entertainment tax on the receipts of urban cinemas from 25% to 10% and for the rural cinemas from 20% to 5%, to allow the cinema industry to retool and to be more competitive. It also reduces the entertainment tax on horse racing to 20% but this was not highlighted in the Minister's remarks.

Nokta's bill extends the date for holding of the next local government elections that should have been held by December 1, 2002 for a further twelve months. The bill effectively extends the life of the municipalities and local democratic organs. The members to these bodies were elected in 1994, when the last municipal and local government elections were held.

The bill piloted by Sawh provides for a comprehensive approach to regulating fishing in the country's territorial waters in accordance with the provisions of the UN Law of the Sea Convention.

The first of the two Financial Papers tabled by the Finance Minister provides for supplementary provisions totalling $807.5M for the period April 17 - October 10, 2002 of which $212.7M is to cover current expenditure and $594.7M is to cover capital expenditure. Reflected in the current expenditure are sums for the Government Information Agency ($22.3M) to meet additional operating expenses and $28M to meet higher electricity and telephone charges for the Police. Also reflected are $12.5M to meet legal fees for arbitration proceedings between the Guyana government and Booker PLC and between the Guyana government and Emile Elias of NH-International (Caribbean) Ltd in relation to the East Bank Road contract.

The second Financial Paper covers supplementary provisions for capital expenditure to the end of year totalling $744M of which there are additional funds of $3.8M to complete the rehabilitation of Parliament Chambers and $6.4M to meet the shortfall in the country's contribution to the Inter-American Development Bank.

The rest of the money is to facilitate foreign exchange inflows to the Office of the President and the Ministries of Agriculture, Legal Affairs, Public Works and Communications, Housing and Water, Local Government and Regional Development and Education.

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