Private Sector demands formal spending plan for oil money
Guyana’s private sector representative bodies want Government to open up and tell the nation precisely how it intends to use its earnings from the imminent oil inflows in 2020.
This was the view expressed by President of the Georgetown Chambers of
Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Deodat Indar, during a brief interaction with journalists on the sidelines of a stakeholder engagement on Thursday at the Marriott Hotel.
The GCCI president told journalists that the private sector umbrella body is in fact looking forward to a National Conversation on the issue.
“We need to have a sit down just as we did with Local Content Policy…to ensure that the policy we have, the Guyanese people are part of that design,” according to the GCCI president.
While expressing a level of optimism that this will in fact be the approach of Government, Indar noted that while he believes there are good intentions for the industry, there are still a number of issues to be addressed.
He said the approach with regard the development of a Local Content Policy is welcomed, but there are also a host of other issues that need to be addressed ahead of oil production in 2020.
He drew specific reference to the finalisation of the Petroleum Laws and the establishment of the long awaited Sovereign Wealth Fund, in addition to a well-thought-out programme or policy for the spending of the oil revenues.
“Most importantly, we need to have some document, some policy, to say what we doing with the money that we receive from Exxon(Mobil)” Indar said.
“Where are we going to spend this money? …we need to go into more details where we spend the money for capacity development in Guyana,” he posited.
He was adamant there is a dire need for the capacity building of national institutions in addition to the massive upgrade of services, including in the security, infrastructure, health, education and security fronts.
As it relates to establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, substantive Minister Raphael Trotman had earlier in the year committed to public consultations with regard to the money to be set aside from the revenues earned from the country’s extractive industry, including the emerging oil and gas sector. To date, no such consultation has obtained.
At the time, Minister Trotman had told stakeholders during a consultation exercise on the petroleum laws, “It’s hopefully not necessarily going to be passed this year into Act, but the intention is that, later this year, it will be brought to the public for examination, scrutiny, and improvement.”
According to a missive released earlier this year by the Government’s Department of Public Information, a Sovereign Wealth Fund is envisioned to be a state-owned investment fund that is made up of surpluses from official foreign currency operations, proceeds of privatisations, governmental transfer payments, fiscal surpluses, and/or receipts resulting from resource exports.
These sums of money can be used for investment purposes, to benefit the country’s economy and citizens.
Guyana’s SWF Bill was drafted by the Commonwealth Secretariat with input from the Government, and was presented to the minister last December, according to that department.
Trotman had announced that the proposed Bill to give effect to the fund is fashioned after international model, namely Norway.
Trotman had recently told the National Assembly that it is the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, who will be formally presenting the proposed Bill to the National Assembly.
The National Assembly will emerge from its annual recess next month, at which time the 65 Member legislative arm of Government will resume working.