We need more popular power over the Natural Resources Fund and less political power grab!

Mr. Editor,

There is a saying: “The more you look, the less you see; the less you watch, the better for me. The PPP / C appears determined to use its one-seat majority to repeal the original NRF law approved by the Coalition, replacing it with its own bill and reducing the public accountability and oversight committee from 22 to 9 people. . They want us to watch less, and good for them.

They didn’t like the AFNU + AFC NRF law, so they repeal it. Why don’t they want to repeal the bad oil deal of the UNPA + AFC either, just as they want to cancel other bad deals in which the UNPA + AFC has ceded state assets?

The government claims that the Coalition’s NRF was rammed down our throats without any consultation. So who crushes gas on land and Amaila Falls, Payara, Yellowtail, and now this NRF Bill? What consultation was carried out with the opposition and civil society for this bill?

In fact, the Coalition’s bill is the result of an extensive consultation process with the help of international experts. The bill responds to essential elements of the Santiago Principles and the expectations of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Escazu Accord, all of which are very concerned about public transparency, accountability and stakeholder monitoring.

In our system, ministers have enormous power, so the criticism that the NRF law gives too much power to the minister is frivolous. Our Minister of Natural Resources may grant tax certificates worth millions of US dollars to oil companies, although this may constitute a violation of Guyana’s tax laws. Is the government interested in reducing this ministerial power so that only Parliament can do it? A minister gave away all of our national oil and gas heritage of billions of barrels of oil for a 2% royalty. There was no consultation with the parliamentary opposition; the case was not brought to Parliament; there was no broad public or civic consultation; it was a secret. Why doesn’t the PPP government hold a commission of inquiry to find out what happened?

Our fate is that when the PPP or the PNC are in power, even hanging by a thread from a majority of a seat, they display arrogance and triumphalism which excludes the other side of the House and the Guyanese people. It is simply reported that the president said, “The people of this country went to the polls and they put their trust in a president, in a government, are you saying that after people put that trust? , do we not have the right or we cannot be trusted to appoint people to a board? He asked this question to a gathering of Berbers. The PPP learned nothing from the 2011 and 2015 elections. The PPP tends to see itself as a saint with the divine right to impose his will, and everyone else is stupid sinners to ignore.

Nation, we now have a gift of oil and gas, a dollar store type of sale going on with our oil and gas, our gold and our lumber. Oil companies receive billions of US dollars and Guyana a handful of millions of US dollars. Of the gross oil revenue, oil companies get around 85.5% while Guyana gets 14.5%. The world average for oil-producing countries is 65%. So you see how much we are losing. For the oil companies, every day is Christmas – they get huge gifts from our current governments – PNC or PPP. And our poor, gathered masses aspiring to a better life have obstacles!

The problem with this government so far is that their overall scoreboard is a lack of transparency, accountability and consultation in the big things that matter most. The government refuses to release information that stakeholders are asking for on oil, gas and environmental assessment documents. Transparency is lacking. Neither the opposition nor civil society are consulted on all projects – Gas-to-Shore, Amaila Falls, etc. The actions of a government can bind a successor government, so it is important that the government involves the opposition, parliament, and civic actors in such important decisions on costly projects.

So let’s see who included the APNU + AFC bill, and compare it with whom the PPP / C wants to exclude. Instead of the current 22 members, the PPP / C proposes a Public Accountability and Control Committee of nine members whose members would be – one from the National Assembly, three from the religious community, two from the private sector, two from the trade union movement; and a representative of the professions.

Those removed by the PPP / C bill in apparent violation of Article 13 of Guyana’s Constitution which requires consultation, include representatives of civil society, women and youth – all to be nominated by a consortium civil society organizations and community organizations. ; Bars of Guyana; Guyana Consumers Association; Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GYEITI); ; Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc. (TIGI); Guyanese Press Association; Guyana Institute of Chartered Accountants; Private Sector Commission; one representative from each of the 10 regional councils and one candidate from academia appointed by the board of directors of the University of Guyana. Clearly, the UNPA + AFC bill has broad and inclusive representation of key stakeholders.

The PPP / C proposes 3 religious representatives. This is the type of committee where you need technocrats, not religious representatives. What if they are all messed up? (unless that’s the kind of people they want). The religious let us down by their silence during the rigging, were not at the forefront of vaccination, have nothing to say about the renegotiation of oil contracts and all natural resources. Ditto for unions. I do not accept the arguments that the PPP / C amendments will reduce ministerial control; it increases that control. The minister will control the 3 to 5 members of the proposed board of directors. I suggest a parliamentary confirmation process for the board of directors. Nation, we need more oversight of oil and gas and all natural resources, not less. We need more popular power and less political power grab!


Dr Jerry Jailall

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