President David Granger has assured that the Coalition Government is committed to transparency in the management of the oil and gas sector, promising to be prudent with revenues which will flow from oil production in 2020.
Delivering an address to Members of Parliament (MPs) following the annual Parliamentary recess, President Granger outlined Government’s legislative plan for the upcoming session and provided an update on the state of affairs in the country.
According to Granger, Government is taking steps to ensure that the revenues which accrue from the sector will not be squandered but, instead, will be invested strategically in building human and institutional capacity, addressing infrastructural deficit and providing economic security for future generations.
Granger told Parliament, which saw attendance from the Diplomatic Corps that this would be done through a Natural Resources Fund (NRF) which will be established before first oil in 2020.
“It is being reviewed by Cabinet and the revised legislation will be laid in the National Assembly next month. This legislation is comprehensive and will ensure that revenues from petroleum are managed in a transparent and accountable manner,” Granger stated.
He indicated that the legislation, as it stands, meets 21 of the 24 Santiago Principles with the other three principles being met once the legislation comes into force.
“Your government will ensure that oil revenues are prudently managed for the present and future generations in accordance with our objective of securing the good life for all,” Granger stated. He assured that Government has already begun to build the capacity of key agencies concerned with management of the NRF and has developed an implementation plan to ensure that the Fund is fully operational in 2019 prior to first oil.
He said priority will be given to investments in human capital, particularly our public education system and key catalytic infrastructural projects that improve productivity and bridge the divide between the coastland and hinterland.
As it relates to other developments in the sector, Granger noted that work is continuing, also, on the Petroleum Commission Bill which has been re-drafted and forwarded to the Department of Energy for review.
Other legislation which the Department of Energy is reviewing includes amendments to the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act and Regulations.
“Your government is committed to transparency in the management of this sector. We have made public the petroleum contracts signed between investors and the Government of Guyana,” Granger stated.
Granger said that government has a packed legislative agenda to bring before the National Assembly in 2019. He highlighted a few including the Public Debt Management Bill, which will address reforms of the procurement system, as well as for improved expenditure planning, management and execution of the public sector investment programme.
According to Granger, the Mining Act and its Regulations are being comprehensively overhauled to ensure that mining is better regulated to ensure safety, efficiency and environmental sustainability through the Mining (Amendment) Bill.
He said amendments will also be tabled in respect of the Guyana Gold Board Act and its Regulations. He promised new regulations to reduce the use of mercury in the mining sector and to ensure better environmental practices on land and water resources.
Also scheduled to be tabled for this sitting is the Judicial Review Bill and the long-awaited Intellectual Property Rights Bill.
Granger stated that the Integrity Commission (Amendment) Bill will amend the schedule of declarants so as to more accurately reflect today’s range of senior public officers.
During his address, Granger received thunderous applause from the Government MPs and was heckled by the Opposition, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) when he addressed topical issues, including those related to the sugar industry.
Unlike last year when the Opposition greeted him with placards and drowned out his speech, Granger was allowed to deliver his speech relatively uninterrupted. The Opposition did not stand when the President was invited to address the Parliament or when he completed his address.
Opposite the Parliament Buildings, supporters from the two sides jostled to occupy the space behind the police barricades. Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo and other PPP MPs stopped to greet their supporters.
However, the PPP supporters eventually caved in to a counter group and left the area. As Granger arrived, he was greeted with chants of ‘Granger, Granger’ from a group of persons mostly decked out in A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) gear.
As the President departed the Parliament Buildings he stopped his motorcade, exited his car and shook hands with supporters. Other Government MPs did the same.
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