THE tendency of governments to rush legislation through parliament without due consultation or discussion with the private sector and other members of the community, who may have an interest or may be impacted by the legislation is irking St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber has identified three important pieces of legislation that it says reflect that tendency of government, namely the Banking Act, Consumer Protection Act and the Citizenship by Investment Act.
“We have concerns and have expressed these concerns relating to the process as follows,” the Chamber noted in its 2016 annual report.
The report, which was handed out at the Chamber’s 132 Annual General Meeting, last week noted that there is now an absence of structured engagement of stakeholders in the formulation stage of legislation or amendments.
“Surely, legislation can be informed by the experience, interest, concerns and needs of those who will be impacted by legislation,” stated the Chamber.
According to the Chambers report, there is now extremely limited breadth or depth of presentation in the groups being used to review or inform legislation.
“In the case of the Banking Act the very private sector who will be impacted by the legislation was not involved in the consultative process at the drafting or review stage. The established practice of giving the public an opportunity to review the legislation at the ‘Bill’ stage, no longer occurs,” the Chamber noted.
It added that the process of consultation many times is confused with communication. Thus the public agency communicates with the private sector informing them of the intentions of the government and invite comments.
“However, too often, very little, if any of the comments are taken on board or account of. It is also the practice that comments may be submitted as requested on the legislation, but there is no feedback as to if the comments have been taken account of, addressed, or if the comments are misguided due to poor understanding of the draft legislation,” the Chamber said.
It added that in the eventuality that communication or consultation takes place the lag time between that and introduction to the House is extremely long resulting in the private sector losing track of the legislation and work done on it.
‘Finally, the stop gap measure built into the legislative process of requiring a number of stages or ‘readings’ that a bill must go through before being passed is observed more in the breach. The process is often short circuited by government through the standard ‘suspension of Standing Orders…allowing the Bill to go through all three readings.’ This process was meant to provide ‘breathing space’ and time for review. This situation needs to be addressed,’ the Chamber said.