While the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) calls for notable public consultation, some sections of society believe that the efforts of Government, in this regard, leave much to be desired.
It was Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, who announced last year that the policy that is supposed to govern the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) will indeed benefit from public consultation.
Jordan noted that concerns were raised about the fact that there seems to be no consultation on the policy.
Jordan told reporters that his Ministry is finalizing the green paper to go to Cabinet early next month. He said that legislation will have all the Santiago principles in it.
The Santiago Principles consist of 24 generally accepted principles and practices. The Santiago Principles promote transparency, good governance, accountability and prudent investment practices whilst encouraging a more open dialogue and deeper understanding of SWF activities.
However, officials of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), an organisation with the largest business support organisations in Guyana, are amongst who believe that public input in the upcoming SWF strategy lack depth.
Commenting on the issue this week, GMSA Executive Ramesh Dookhoo noted that a report highlighting the concerns of the sector was forwarded to the Ministry of Finance since last year.
Dookhoo said there was no further interaction with the Finance Ministry on the matter. He explained that the report was prepared and forwarded to the Ministry following a public forum held last year.
“However except for an acknowledgement that the report was received, the GMSA had not further contact with the Ministry on the subject.”
Last year, GMSA) that looked at the framework model for the SWF for the oil and gas sector was discussed extensively by an elite group of Guyanese professionals who made several criticisms and recommendations.
The discussion surrounded the Green Paper that was recently laid in the National Assembly of Guyana.
Outspoken commentator lawyer and accountant, Christopher Ram and trade unionist, Lincoln Lewis.
During the discussion, Lewis indicated that emphatically stated that sovereignty belongs to the people of Guyana and Article 13 of the Constitution guarantees the peoples’ rights to inclusionary democracy.
Mr. Lewis questioned whether the Guyanese people had a role, or is envisioned to have a role, in the development of the Green Paper.
He questioned whether there are any examples of the masses benefitting from oil revenues and posited that the management of the SWF cannot follow the status-quo. Instead, the revenues from the SWF should be directed to projects, which were identified in a national development plan, which has been created in consultation with the Guyanese people.
He suggested that Guyanese people should be both direct and indirect beneficiaries of the revenues from the oil and gas sector. He recommended that the Ministry of Finance should consult with the people of Guyana on the Green Paper and the development of the SWF.
In the report, GMSA noted that it represents a membership of over 100 large and medium scale businesses from the agro-processing, forestry and wood processing, minerals, engineering and construction, fast foods, pharmaceuticals and services sectors.
The GMSA recognizes the importance of a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) as a key mechanism to manage revenues from extractive industries, and particularly, oil and gas.
The design, establishment and implementation of the SWF, is therefore a key national issue, which can shape Guyana’s future development.
In this regard and considering that there has been little if any civil society and private sector inputs or involvement in the shaping of the Green Paper, the GMSA said that it convened a forum on the SWF.
The GMSA said further, that the aim of the forum was to bring together a wide cross section of civil society and businesses to discuss the Green Paper and the SWF.
Specific objectives of the discussion forum included facilitated a presentation from the Ministry of Finance on the Green Paper; to provide a forum for keynote experts to offer perspectives on the guiding principles of the SWF on oversight and management, the modalities and mechanisms, and the role of civil society and the private in the sector.
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