Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, said on Wednesday that the Natural Resource Fund (NRF)’s operationalisation will be hampered by the refusal of two bodies, the political Opposition and the Private Sector Commission (PSC), to name members to committees which will oversee the fund.
The Act names two committees – the Public Accountability and Oversight Committee requires a nominee from the Private Sector Commission, and the Investment Committee requires a nominee from the Leader of the Opposition.
“We had sent out letters to all the bodies that will play a part in this fund.” Minister Jordan said during a press conference for the mid-year report of 2019. He had been asked whether the political climate has hampered government’s preparation for first oil.
“Before the letter could even reach my desk, the Opposition had already sent it to the press, saying that they have rejected naming any bodies.”
Further, he said “We have sent out letters to the PSC and they have not even favoured us with a response as to whether they are going to name their people to the different committees or not.”
The Minister said that all the other parties have been written to, and have at least acknowledged and are working toward naming committee members.
He continued, “I can’t say the political situation hasn’t affected [oil preparations] …It’s not that [the NRF] can’t get in place. The accounts will be opened, and everything else, but its operationalisation will be hampered by people not naming their [committee members].”
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, spoke with the press yesterday, responding to Minister Jordan’s comments.
“Our differences are more fundamental than just sitting on the body.” Jagdeo said.
He reminded that the Opposition had responded, explaining why it would not participate.
His first contention is that Government delayed the passing of the Natural Resource Fund Act, and passed it during a period when the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) considered the Government to be illegal.
The Act was passed earlier this year, after the December 21, 2018 no confidence motion.
“And so, as far as we’re concerned, it is illegal.”
Jagdeo said that, should the PPP win the next General election, it will repeal and replace the act quickly, “with another model that reflects some of the principles that we’ll outline in our manifesto, [namely] Santiago Principles on Transparency, and Norwegian type management, which places the management of the fund a distance from the politicians.
Asked whether the time that will take will delay oil production, he said that it won’t.
“The money could be placed in an escrow account, in the Central Bank. Nobody touches it. We publish how much money. We gazette how much we receive. In any case, they can’t spend any money, because no budget.”
Jagdeo explained that the model on which the current Act is formulated is one in which the PPP has no faith. He contends that it does not place enough distance between the management of the act and politicians.
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