Dec 29, 2021 News
– calls for wide consultations; says citizens must have a say on how oil money is spent
Kaieteur News –Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Liberty and Justice Party, Lenox Shuman is of the view that all Guyanese must be consulted on how the revenue garnered from oil and gas production should be spent.
In an invited comment on Tuesday, Shuman told this newspaper that not only must Guyanese be consulted, but the proposed legislation should also be withdrawn due to its flaws. According to him, “I strongly believe that this legislation needs to be withdrawn and taken for public consultations so that the people and the public knows, because it is a fund that affects all Guyanese, so it is unfair for 51% to make decisions on behalf of 100 percent when you have another 49 percent not being represented”.
He explained that the Natural Resources Fund Bill, tabled in Parliament on December 16, 2021 and will be debated today was meant to catch the nation “off-guard”. “Parliament was on break for what seems like four months, and the Government had ample opportunity to present the Bill at that juncture for all and sundry to have a chance to see and have an input. But they waited over the Christmas break to table it and have it debated and it simply shows that it was meant to catch the nation off-guard,” Shuman reasoned.
In addition to this, he also raised concerns with the power of the president to appoint the Board of Directors, which will replace the 22-member oversight committee, established by the former Government to manage the oil fund. Shuman noted, “The country should be aware that that Board of Directors will all be from one political party, that you will not have any objective oversight over it, and even when it comes down to the Parliament, it will come back to their control since they have the majority”.
It is his view that mechanisms should have been put into the Bill to address this deficiency. In fact, the Deputy Speaker believes that Parliament should be given an opportunity to elect the officials for the Board. “Every single person who should be on the Board of Directors should be given an opportunity to be questioned in front of Parliament and for them to be confirmed by at least two thirds of Parliament, similar to what the US does with the Supreme Court nominees,” the Opposition MP pointed out.
Meanwhile, he told this newspaper that even though the NRF outlines that the members of the board will be given a two-year contract, with possibility for renewal, it does not clarify if these members can serve for more than two consecutive terms or if they can remain a “lifetime appointee”.
Shuman said, “I quite agree with the Government that the previous Bill was passed when the former administration was not legitimately in office, but I do not agree with the method or the process that they are using to drive this piece of legislation through Parliament”.
As a consequence, Shuman who is the Leader the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) informed that he is leading a petition in Parliament so that the Bill can be withdrawn for reconsideration, or that it goes to a select committee for a further input. That petition has already been sent in to Parliament. The main Opposition- APNU+AFC said, due to the complex nature of the Bill and its importance to the management of the country’s oil resources, Members of Parliament (MPs) need more time to study it. As such, they have called for the Bill to be sent to a Special Select Committee for fine-tuning and possible changes, before it is debated in the House. Government however, seems to be in a hurry to pass the bill into law, with Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo saying, the people of Guyana gave his party a mandate at the last elections and they will forge ahead.
The amendments to the legislation governing the NRF propose that there be two key committees and a Board of Directors to preside over the management of the nation’s oil money. Importantly, all of the members on these committees as well as the Board will be appointed by the President or his Minister responsible for natural resources.
As part of the governance structure for the NRF, the government proposes to establish a Board of Directors, which shall comprise of not less than three and not more than five persons who shall be appointed by the President, and one of whom shall be appointed Chairperson by the President. The amended Bill proposes that the directors be selected from among persons who have wide experience and ability in legal, financial, business or administrative matters.
Apart from the Board, there would also be an Investment Committee which shall have seven members appointed by the Minister of Natural Resources. They will include nominees from the Minister of Finance, Minister in charge of the oil sector, the Attorney General, Leader of the Opposition, the Private Sector and two ex officio non-voting members: the Senior Investment Advisor and Analyst and a nominee from the Governor of Bank of Guyana. The Committee would be required to take account of the current conditions, opportunities and constraints in the relevant financial matters, the principle of financial diversification with the objective of maximising risk-adjusted financial returns and taking into account the capacity of the institutions involved in the management of the fund and the nation’s ability to bear financial risk.
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