Deeds and Commercial Registry3942 03 Jan, 2013
Dr. Singh: Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I believe it is reasonably well known in this House that my favourite position in the speaking line-up is immediately after Mr. Ramjattan. I am happy to see that Whips have acquiesced once again and placed me in this, my favourite position.
I will be brief in my remarks on the matter of the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority Bill 2012. Much has already been said in favour of this Bill. I am happy in fact to hear what I interpret to be expressions of support from my colleagues on that side of the House, notwithstanding the reservations that they might have expressed.
Let me say that there were two observations made, one by Mr. Ramjattan in relation to the very important nexus between law and the judicial and legal framework on the one hand and economic growth on the other, a matter that Mr. Ramjattan had alluded to on a previous occasion, I think a budget debate probably two or three years ago. The Hon. Attorney General similarly alluded to the phenomenal expansion in activity at the Deeds Registry. I think the comparison he drew was the level of activity in 1920, I think that was the first year of reference, to the level of activity today.
Indeed it is a fact that when the Deeds Registry, as it was originally conceptualised, was established that one could scarcely have contemplated the volume of activity conducted today. In particular if I were to devote my attention to the commercial activity, the administration of Acts or the discharge of the functions of the Registrar under Acts such as the Companies Act, the Business Names Registration Act to name a few, they are all listed in this Bill, one indeed would be excused for thinking, and one would be right in fact to say that to say that there could scarcely have been a contemplation that the level of activity would be what it is today.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I would go further and say that this People Progressive Party/Civic Government, recognising this important nexus that exists between a conducive legal framework and economic growth and in turn the wellbeing and welfare of our people, we have worked very hard to ensure we have a strong legislative framework in place, that is to say laws enacted and put in operation. We have been engaged in an ongoing effort to strengthen the structures and institutions within the judicial machinery. It would be recalled that in the second half of the Ninth Parliament an extremely comprehensive range of legislation were brought to the Parliament with this specific objective in mind. Whether it be the introduction of judicial review, new High Court rules, new Judicial Service Commission rules - a wide range – we concomitantly embarked on the implementation of a Justice Sector Improvement Programme, updating our laws, updating our law reports – that work is very far advanced – all with the intention of achieving this objective: a modern efficient legislative environment, one that the business community will find itself in a situation where outcomes, whether it is adjudication of disputes, or other outcomes in the world of commercial contracting and commercial transacting, will be predictable and timely.
Indeed, it would be recalled that we also, some years ago, moved to establish a commercial court, a court established for the purposes of adjudicating a specified range of matters – matters of a commercial nature. In fact, that commercial division found its service in such high demand that within the shortest space of time literally hundreds, if not thousands, of matters found themselves before the commercial court to the point now where many are calling for the appointment of at least one other judge within the commercial division; a call, incidentally, that I support fully. Many are now calling for the appointment of at least one other judge within the commercial division so that the commercial disputes that find themselves in the court can be resolved in a timely and efficient manner.
This Deeds and Commercial Registry Authority Bill is situated within that context, the ongoing effort to modernise our judicial system and our legislative framework, and in particular as it relates to the business environment. If one looks at our Companies Act the obligations of companies as it relates to filing of annual returns, maintaining up to date registers of shareholders etcetera, are very serious and comprehensive obligations that are assigned to companies and businesses registered under the Business Names Registration Act, and indeed to other categories of entities. The Trade Union Act for example, was administered formerly by the Deeds Registry but now it comes under the Commercial Registry within the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority. I do not believe that it is a secret that the current bureaucracy at the Deeds Registry has struggled to discharge these important responsibilities. This Government would like to get us to a point where every single company, every single business, every single registered trade union, is in full and current compliance with the law. That is the point we would like to get to. For that to happen we need, of course, an efficient and functioning registry; and it is hoped that this Bill will lay the foundation for that to be achieved. We need an efficient enforcement mechanism so that defaulters are identified in a timely manner and are notified, reminded of their obligations, and brought into compliance. And we need, of course, a culture of compliance to be encouraged. That is the background against which I view this Bill.
It is my fervent hope, it is this Government’s fervent hope, that with the enactment of this important piece of legislation, with its bringing into operation and implementation of its various provisions, with the establishment of a modern computerised efficient registry, matters like searching company’s names, searching for properties, or loans on properties, searching for shareholders or changes in shareholdings, obtaining financial reports as it relates to companies, ascertaining directorship and cross directorships, that these matters will now be administered in a much more efficient manner. That is our anticipation, and that is our intention.
This new Bill, the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority, of course, contains a number of other provisions apart from the mere establishment of the Authority. Within the Authority or under the purview of the authority there are administrative provisions that will govern the operation of the Registry. If one examines those provisions one would see that they lend themselves well to the objective we are seeking, that is to say an efficient and modern registry. They make adequate provisions for the transition from the current arrangement to this new arrangement that we will see implemented under the new Bill, And, of course, the Bill repeals the old Deeds Registry Authority Act of 1999 which, for various reasons that are reasonably obvious if one peruses that Act, proved itself to be inoperable for reasons, like I said, that would be fairly evident if one reads that Act.
So in summary I would say that the Deeds and Commercial Registry Authority Bill represents - if you would forgive me for using a phrase I used earlier today when I spoke on the Business Names (Registration) (Amendment) Bill - this represents yet another installment in our comprehensive and wide ranging efforts to modernise and make more efficient the environment for doing business in Guyana. This is the latest installment, and an extremely important installment, considerably more comprehensive than the Business Names (Registration) (Amendment) Bill, notwithstanding the importance of that Bill. It is a very import installment in this Government’s efforts to create a conducive environment for doing business.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker, we should not take for granted the growth we have seen. It is a fact this nexus does exist; it is a fact that the volume of transactions have increased phenomenally. The Attorney General alluded to the number of companies registered, the number of businesses registered – I think he spoke about 5,000 businesses registered; two hundred new companies registered in a year. [Interruption] Was it 40,000 transactions? People generally are shy of speaking of their successes, but the reality is that every day new businesses are being established, they are growing, they are going into the financial system and borrowing, they are executing mortgages – sometimes in use as collateral – they are investing the proceeds of their borrowing, and these are reflected in all of the key economic indicators. Credit to the private sector has never grown as rapidly as it has grown over the last five or six years. That is evidence that businesses are going into the financial system, accessing financing, borrowing, investing and growing. New businesses, like I said, are being established every day; transactions are being executed every day. One merely has to drive down the streets of Georgetown to see businesses in all manner of sectors, every sector of services - manufacturing, tourism and so many others. It is these developments that have contributed to the very evident diversification we have witnessed in the Guyanese economy. The fact is that today we are no longer dependent on one or two dominant sectors. The very clear resilience we have been building and accomplishing in Guyana is a matter that I have spoken about on a number of occasions. The fact is that despite the trauma that the global and regional economies are going through the Guyanese economy has sustained uninterrupted positive growth since 2006. The foreign investor confidence in Guyana is higher today than at any other time in recent history. That is a fact, Mdm. Deputy Speaker. One has only to look at the number of companies investing, whether it is in the natural resources or mineral sector, or the tourism sector – these are well documented facts. One merely has to look at our foreign direct investment inflows every year, and our balance of payments, to see these are indisputable facts; the numbers are there for all to see. But it important that one does not take for granted this growth, this resilience we are achieving and endeavouring to build on. We must never be complacent or rest our efforts to remain competitive or become even more competitive. We must not assume that this growth will happen or continue to happen automatically. In fact this growth is heavily dependent on the maintenance of an appropriate policy framework and the preservation and further strengthening of our institutional framework efforts such as are contained in the current Bill.
So Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I have no doubt at all that with the establishment of this new Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority we will see a significant advance being accomplished in the modernisation of an improved competitiveness of our business environment. This Bill is not to be underestimated; it might appear simple but it represents an extremely important and valuable contribution, and in its full implementation one will see this with the benefit of hindsight. It represents an extremely important contribution to the improvement of the business environment in Guyana.
Against that background I am pleased to add my modest voice in support of this Bill. I join my colleague the Attorney General, the Hon. Members Mr. Manzoor Nadir, Mr. Williams and also Mr. Ramjattan in commending this Bill to the House. I trust the comments made notwithstanding we would see the Bill passed into law with the unanimity that it deserves this evening.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
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