NRF Bill gets support from Private Sector bodies

…lauded for adhering to “Santiago Principles”

The Natural Resource Fund Bill, which was debated on Wednesday in the National Assembly, has attracted praise from various Private Sector bodies, who note that the bill’s provisions allow for greater transparency and accountability.
The Private Sector Commission (PSC), which is the umbrella organisation for the Private Sector, spoke of the merits of the Natural Resource Fund Bill. According to the PSC, that body has since concluded discussions at the level of the Subcommittee on Economy and Finance.

PSC Chairman Paul Cheong

One of the merits of the bill that the PSC noted was that all monies from the NRF that would be used must first be transferred to the Consolidated Fund. This would make sure that all withdrawals can be examined by the National Assembly before they are approved.
“We note the removal of the unbridled authority that was entrusted in the Minister of Finance in the Act of 2019, and the disaggregation of some of these responsibilities to other authorities and oversight bodies. Additionally, the fact that all monies to be used from the Fund must be transferred to the Consolidated Fund will provide for parliamentary oversight on the spending of these resources, which fosters greater accountability and transparency,” the PSC has said.
The PSC did note that wider consultation should have been pursued before the finalisation of the bill. However, it has expressed support for the bill since, in its current form, it follows much of the Santiago Principles for transparency and accountability.
Additionally, the PSC noted the importance of the bill at a critical juncture in Guyana’s development, when resources must be invested into infrastructure, healthcare, education and climate change mitigation.
“While the PSC believes that wider consultation should have been pursued for feedback and finalisation of the legislation, it is evident that the Bill in its current form subscribes in large part to the Santiago Principles, and thus we hereby support the passage of the legislation,” the PSC has said.
“The PSC concludes that the Natural Resource Fund Legislation, when operationalised, will provide the resources that will serve as a major catalyst for Guyana’s national development in all sectors, leading to unparalleled economic growth,” the Commission has added.

Also issuing a statement were the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who noted they have been following the bill’s development closely. The GCCI also expressed the view that the bill follows the Santiago Principles, an internationally recognised benchmark for Sovereign Wealth Funds.
“Overall, the GCCI is pleased with the Bill’s general adherence with the international benchmark for Sovereign Wealth Funds, commonly referred to as the ‘Santiago Principles’… the Chamber wishes to reaffirm its stance as a partner in national development, and anticipates continued steps to support inclusive growth for Guyanese,” the GCCI has said.

GCCI President Timothy Tucker

“Additionally, given the paramount importance of this Bill, and its use as a tool for intergenerational wealth transfer of the citizens of Guyana, the GCCI is of the belief that more time should be provided to the public for its input and general commentary on the Bill,” GCCI said in its statement.
The GCCI has expressed the view that it understood the need for the revision of the bill, the reasons for which were outlined by President Dr. Irfaan Ali in a video address on Tuesday.
Additionally, the Chamber noted that its detailed commentary on the bill would be transmitted to Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh via letter.

Another statement was forthcoming from the Guyana Oil and Gas Energy Chamber (GOGEC), which has thrown its support behind the bill. According to GOGEC, there are several levels of oversight for the Fund, including the Public Accounts Committee, the National Assembly, Central Bank, and a board of directors.

GOGEC President Manniram Prashad

“Ultimately, the aim is to ensure greater accountability, transparency, and prudent governance of the Fund in the interest of the people of Guyana. The ultimate oversight body of the Fund is the National Assembly, the Public Accounts Committee, the Bank, presumably the Central Bank/Bank of Guyana, the Board of Directors, the Public Accountability and Oversight Committee, which by design will exercise non-governmental oversight, and the Ministry of Finance.
“With respect to transparency and accountability, the bill mandates monthly, quarterly, and annual reporting. The annual report has to be tabled in the National Assembly, and the Fund is subject to both internal and external audit,” GOGEC said.
The Chamber noted that this Board has management responsibility of the Fund, and will be guided by the legislation on how the Fund ought to be managed. The Chamber pointed out that the Board therefore cannot legally deviate from the investment mandate of the Fund, as stipulated by the Act.