Guyana’s Natural Resources Fund Act

Dear Editor,
Another media ran a front-page story that “PPP/C natural resource law no different from APNU+AFC in relation to powers” (Jan 9) quoting Prof Tarron Khemraj.
His analysis is not accurate. Prof Khemraj should re-examine the new NRFA, and he would notice significant differences from the coalition’s.
In his comparison of the NRF of the coalition and PPPC, Dr. Khemraj errs in stating they are not different. There are major differences. The new NRFA is a drastic improvement over the coalition’s. the PPPC provides for greater transparency and accountability in the spending of the oil money. As an illustration, instead of the Minister of Finance being empowered as under the coalition, the Parliament is now empowered to oversee the fund. A Board of Directors has been empowered to administer the fund. The President would appoint the Board on a recommendation after consultation with the Private Sector and the Public, and must meet certain requirements. But regardless of which party is in Government, the coalition NRF and the PPPC NRF, the ruling party has the majority on the board. That is how a democracy is governed.
There are other major differences. Under the new NRFA, there is an Oversight Committee, just like under the coalition’s, but reduced from 22 (persons) to nine. Their appointments are made from the religious bodies, Private Sector, labour unions, and the professions. It is the Public Accountability and Oversight Committee responsible for non-governmental oversight.
Parliament would scrutinise spending. Money cannot be withdrawn without parliamentary approval, and how the money will be spent will be queried in Parliament by the Public Accounts Committee and the entire body.
Under the coalition, the amount of money to be withdrawn was not clear. With the new NRF, the amount to be withdrawn is clear. There is a sliding scale-specific formula on how much money will be withdrawn annually. Over time, a smaller percentage of money is withdrawn and the amount in the fund grows for a rainy day.
Overall, there are major differences between the NRFAs of the coalition and the PPP. The PPPC’s NRFA seems more transparent and subjected to greater accountability, with less Ministerial and Government control.

Yours truly,
Shriram Ketwaru