Jul 24, 2022 News
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – Citizens play a critical role in advocating and helping to make public institutions more transparent, accountable and effective, as recognised in the World Bank Group’s Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Citizen Engagement (2014).
As such, the Guyana Petroleum Resources Governance and Management Project, which is currently being “refined” by the government, sought to support the development of platforms for social accountability and dialogue necessary to inform and give Guyanese citizens an opportunity to provide input and feedback, among other things, on Guyana’s oil and gas legislation; oil and gas revenue management and environmental and social impact management.
According to the document, the project would allow for support to the development and consultation on “Green Papers” for various pieces of legislation, support the engagement of project beneficiaries in the preparation, implementation, and monitoring of all project activities, stakeholder engagement (through the support of initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and the implementation of a well designed communications strategy – at the regional and national level. To reflect this approach, the Project also sought “to monitor citizen engagement throughout project implementation through a beneficiary feedback indicator,” with a report on the beneficiary feedback which would have been required by the third year of the implementation.
The proposed World Bank Project also sought to contribute to enhancing the predictability, credibility and accountability of the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana as the project proposes to support capacity building of key institutions with responsibility for the Oil and Gas (O&G) sector in Guyana. “Stronger, more capable institutions are in turn expected to deliver credible, predictable and accountable O&G sector management and oversight. As such, the proposed Project is in line with the World Bank’s updated Governance and Anticorruption (GAC) agenda and is complementary to other World Bank projects such as the Caribbean Extractive Industries Technical Assistance (EITA) and the Guyana Financial Stability and Development Policy Credit (DPC) which similarly contribute towards enhanced governance outcomes.” The Caribbean EITA advisory service, for example, supports the governments so that EITI and wider oil and mining sector policy reforms are informed with international good practices.
Natural Resource Minister, Vickram Bharrat informed the public last week that the government is still working to “refine” this World Bank project which offers Guyana a US$20 million line of credit to support the growing O&G sector. The project was conceived under the previous administration. While the document sought to put mechanisms in place to increase citizen involvement in protecting the sector, the government has come in for a lot of criticism as to why it has not accepted the help that the World Bank has offered in overseeing and managing the capital intensive industry. The lack of citizen input in managing the oil and gas sector is one reason Opposition members say they, for instance, fought so fiercely against the passage of the Natural Resources Fund (NRF).
On Thursday last, the government voted to suspend eight Opposition parliamentarians who sought to prevent the passage of the legislation by disrupting the proceedings and eventually removing the mace, the symbol of the House’s authority. The passage of the NRF bill is currently being challenged in court as to whether the bill was properly passed given the removal of the mace. The thrust of the Opposition’s concern, however, is that the NRF bill had not received enough consultation.
During debates on the bill, Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones rose to request that the Speaker refer the bill to the special select committee for further debate and consultation. He stated, “Comrade Speaker at this late hour, as it relates to this Natural Resources Fund bill it has come in for sharp criticisms from political parties, churches, etc., essentially calling for the government to delay the passage of this bill so as to allow wide consultation so that all of the Guyanese society could have the opportunity to contribute to this bill. Comrade Speaker I believe that this bill is beyond us in this House, it speaks about the future of generations.” The document was nonetheless passed by the government with its voting majority. The government side has so far used the initial oil and gas earnings to support budgetary spending for this year.
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