Kaieteur News – Tacuma Ogunseye has written that had the Finance Minister under the APNU+AFC’s Coalition done the responsible thing in dealing with the Buxton Proposal, he would still be the country’s finance minister. This is the first attempt of any of the leading lights in the Coalition to address the real reasons why the APNU+AFC lost the elections.
It also represents an implicit shift away from the narrative that the PPP/C won the elections because of massive irregularities. That narrative continues to be pedalled by the APNU+AFC, oblivious to its absurdity and potential to foster a culture of political dishonesty as a virtue.
The Buxton proposal was first made by the WPA. The other Buxton proposal was a deceptive political device used to push another narrative: that the criminal insurgency based in Buxton was a consequence of economic marginalisation and neglect of African villages. That narrative was equally the product of political dishonesty.
The WPA’s Buxton Proposal has no roots in the one which emanated from within the bowels of the PNC/R. Following the discovery of oil, Professor Clive Thomas had proposed that each household be given US$5,000 per annum and that this should come from 10 percent of the oil revenues. The proposal was to take the form of direct cash tranfers to households.
The Buxton proposal was a pre-election gimmick. Local government elections were due in November 2018 and General and Regional elections, two years later. The proposal was timed with these elections in mind.
But it was also part of the myth-making within the Coalition. The idea had quickly spread that the discovery of oil meant untold wealth for Guyana’s small population. But that conjecture did not take account of the deal which was signed with the oil companies.
In this regard, the Buxton Proposal was not grounded in reality. Professor Thomas obviously did not do his math. If he had, he would have realised that such a proposition would not be realisable because of the poor deal which the APNU+AFC signed.
When the proposal was first made, President Granger said he had not heard of it and therefore at that stage could not be either for or against the proposal. He called for more information, including how the cash grants were to be distributed. He wanted more analysis done to determine its feasibility.
Granger was not going to jump on any bandwagon without first considering the implications. He was reported by the Guyana Chronicle as saying that it was important to work out a detailed plan for the use of revenues from the Oil and Gas Industry. He said any such plan has to address developments across sectors with major focus on education.
In making this assessment, Granger had stumbled upon a major shortcoming of the Buxton Proposal. It could not be assessed in isolation from a plan for the use of oil revenues, including development across all sectors.
Granger identified another weakness. He said, “Right now, we are eating the cake before we get it.” The then President insisted that the country must first have an understanding of its profits before certain decisions.
That understanding came with the belated release of the Production Sharing Agreement. When that agreement was made public, it became clear that it was a lopsided deal which shortchanged Guyana and virtually rendered unfeasible the Buxton Proposal.
The PPP came out in support of direct cash transfers. But Jagdeo is a man with an accounting brain and thus he was not going to commit something that his party would not be able to deliver.
One year after, the Buxton Proposal was first made, Jagdeo came out batting for targeted cash transfers. He said, “In our manifesto we are going to be talking about targeted transfers to vulnerable groups, right at the beginning. So, we have to help single parents, we have to help children, we have to help the older people first. As capacity grows and we get more money we constantly have to see that it’s sustainable.”
The sustainability, however, depends on the math. And the math still does not add up. By 2027, Guyana is expected to produce 1.2 billion barrels of oil per day. Ten percent of this would be still more than the total oil produced in Guyana’s first year of oil production, the value of which cannot pay US$5,000 per year per every household.
The money is simply not going to be there to meet a one million Guyana dollar annual payout to households. Not unless there is a renegotiation of the oil contract.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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