Failure to pass the anti-money laundering bill will hurt the small man more than the government or upper echelon of the private sector

Dear Editor,

As Parliament fades into an extended period of recess commencing on August 10, there is one colossal elephant in the room that if civil society doesn’t band together and apply some pressure on our political leaders for good sense to prevail, will result in the trampling of our economy and hurt the already shrinking pockets of the average and ordinary Guyanese.

While both government and opposition can be blamed for the more than a year long stalemate in passing the amendment bill to the AML/CFT regime, more of the blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the combined opposition benches.

The opposition parties have squandered many opportunities and have failed the Guyanese people thus far in ensuring the passage of this bill. Editor, please be reminded the combined opposition don’t need the government to pass this legislation.

The opposition would have you believe that they didn’t have enough time to make appropriate contributions to the drafting of the bill, but the truth is that they had more than a year to do so and more recently an offer was made by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) to provide pro bono services to the parliamentary Select Committee, where the opposition holds a majority, to ensure that any amendments submitted met the rigid international requirements of the international FATF. I’m sure that offer is still on the table and if accepted, the combined opposition can move to the floor of the National Assembly (where again they hold a majority) a fully compliant bill for guaranteed passage.

Some commentators have, as of late, been saying that the APNU has

nothing much to show for two-and-a-half years in parliament. Passing this bill presents a good opportunity for that alliance to accomplish something substantive that is pro Guyana in nature.

The opposition wants you to believe that the passage of this bill will somehow represent a victory of sorts for the government. Well, the reality is that the citizens of Guyana will be the real victors if the bill is passed and the biggest losers if it isn’t.

If we fail to pass the bill and international counter measures are applied, a whole host of damaging effects will occur which will hurt the small man more that the government or the upper echelon of the private sector.

Just to identify two concomitant consequences of the counter measures: 1) Increased transaction times and costs at banks, insurance companies and money transfer agencies, and 2) the devaluing of the Guyana dollar as a result of foreign exchange pressures, thus driving up the prices for all imported goods, including fuel and food items.

Moreover, private sector entities will adapt to those realities and will respond by restructuring their operations (which could mean laying off employees) and or passing on the resulting increased costs to the consuming public. This could occur at money transfer agencies and at public entities like Guyana Power and Light (GPL), which would either have to receive increased government subsidies or pass on increased charges for electricity to consumers. Similarly, gas stations would have to charge more for fuel for motor vehicles thus sending up the cost for ‘bus fare’ and commuters driving to work daily.

All these consequences will place an undue burden on citizens and are totally preventable; it just requires a caring and rational opposition to pass the bill.

Yours faithfully,

Clinton Urling


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