By Kiana Wilburg
Government’s Green Paper on the establishment of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) is filled with worrying flaws. It also holds opportunities for abuse by its managers, the principal one being the Finance Ministry.
This point was made yesterday by Chartered Accountant, Chris Ram.
During his interview with Kaieteur News, Ram said that the Green Paper proposes that moneys earned from the extractive sector will be transferred to the Natural Resource Fund. When the government needs a portion of the money, it will transfer the sum to the Consolidated Fund and then proceed with using it.
Ram notes however that this process is in conflict with the Constitution. He said, “The Constitution does not allow for this. The Constitution clearly states that all funds are to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund, the country’s main bank account. When it goes to the Consolidated Fund, then moneys can be withdrawn. The people who came and wrote that thing (the Green Paper) don’t know what they are doing with respect to our domestic laws.”
The Chartered Accountant added, “What is also alarming is that the Green Paper does not minimize the discretion of the Finance Minister when it comes to making decisions regarding the use of the Fund. In fact, the Finance Minister controls everything, and this is just not Winston Jordan, but any Finance Minister. I would not trust any Finance Minister of this country to have control over such substantial funds.”
Ram said he is a proponent of Natural Resource Funds, once they are independently and professionally administrated. “But this paper seems to be predicated on the assumption that it is always going to be this government that will be in charge of those funds.”
The Green Paper also reveals that Bank of Guyana will share some responsibility in the management of the Natural Resource Fund. It will also be overseen by a committee that encompasses several independent interest groups, including a representative nominated by the Leader of the Opposition.
But Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo revealed that he is completely against this arrangement.
The former President said, “We don’t want politicians to manage this money. This fund has to be independently (and) technically managed, not by politicians and stored by Central Bank. We have a problem with that model and it departs radically from best practices such as (those observed by nations like) Norway and others where they have an independent group that manages this.”
Jagdeo added, “So even the model for this will present a lot of problems. (Finance Minister, Winston) Jordan can call the Central Bank and get moneys whenever he wants it or bully people…”
The Opposition Leader reiterated that the Finance Ministry’s model for the management of the Fund leaves him and his party concerned.
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