Home Letters Uncivilised behaviour is yet another blatant affront to our democracy
It was a great coincidence that I wrote a letter to the press on the same day that the Coalition unleashed its trade mark thuggery and hooliganism in the sanctity of the Supreme lawmaking body of the land – the Parliament – stating in no uncertain terms that even though there is a change of leadership in the PNC, ‘the leopard cannot change its spots’.
This uncivilised behaviour is yet another blatant affront to our democracy. I would like to now qualify this: It is easier for the leopard to change its spots than the PNC to change its intimidating, bullying and downright gutter politics mentality. The old PNC status quo no doubt can only get worse. It is power at any and all cost. That is the way forward for the PNC. The PNC should take a page from the PPP General Secretary Dr Bharrat Jagdeo’s leadership. Never once did the PPP use any type of Neanderthal behaviour to get into power.
The PNC is never interested in a compromise, and the greed for power will take precedence over any rational behaviour. Let us look at the Local Content Bill. The Opposition had tabled 14 amendments, and of these amendments, 10 were accepted. The Natural Resources Minister Mr Bharrat was clearly objective and judicious. This Bill was passed without a problem. The Opposition was clearly satisfied. But then they objected vehemently to the passing of the amendments to the National Resources Fund Bill, which by far superseded the NRF Act which they passed as an illegal Government in January 2019, just days after the successful passage of the No Confidence Motion on December, 22nd 2018. This NRF Act was passed on 3rd January, 2019 and Gazetted on 23rd January, 2019. This was real speedy, and without inputs from the then Opposition and the society at large. Indeed, there was an insane haste to get their hands on the oil money.
Let us take a look at the Coalition’s NRF as compared to the PPP/C’s NRF.
The Coalition’s NRF Act provided for a Public Accountability and Oversight Committee which consists of 22 members appointed by the President. Unfortunately, when one looks at the functions of this Committee, it would be seen that it is mere window dressing with no real power. It does monitoring, assessing and evaluation, creates reports and submits reports to a large extent. The Minister of Finance is responsible for the overall management of the Fund. This is where the true power lies.
The amended NRF Act provides for the appointment of the Board of Directors, which has governance and management responsibilities. These directors are appointed by the President. The Board is comprised of a minimum of 3 members and a maximum of 5. This removes the sweeping powers from the subject Minister and put them in the hands of persons with ‘wide experience and ability in legal, financial, business or administrative matters’.
One is appointed by the National Assembly and one from the Private Sector.
This Board is in addition to the Public Accountability and Oversight Committee which is comprised of 9 members selected from the National Assembly, the Private Sector, the religious community, organized labour and the professions. This Committee provides non-governmental oversight of the Fund so there are two tiers of transparency and accountability mechanisms, in addition to the audits. Whilst the Coalition’s NRF provided for a bloated Committee which was in effect useless, the current NRF provides the checks and balances which are vital to transparency and accountability through the Board and the Committee.
Another bone of contention is the withdrawals from the Fund. The Coalition’s NRF ensured that the withdrawal amount is shrouded in complicated details and calculations when Schedule I is analysed. There is no clear-cut calculation apart from being stipulated that the withdrawal should not be in excess of the amount approved by the National Assembly in a fiscal year. The determination of the withdrawals amount is the lesser of the economically sustainable amount and the fiscally sustainable amount. The former takes into consideration the ‘competitiveness of the economy’, and the latter, the ‘long-term sustainability of the Fund’. Both of these are determined by the Minister of Finance and are vague and subjective. The calculation of the fiscally sustainable amount which is laid out in Schedule I provides no clear-cut calculation as is now provided by the current NRF. The current NRF sets a ceiling on the annual withdrawal from the Fund at US$500 million, and this withdrawal starts from 100% and moves to 75%, 50%, 5% and 3% for the second, third, fourth and fifth deposits of US$500 million. The last 3% is on excess of US$2,500 million. In the current NRF, approval is sought in the National Assembly before monies are transferred to the Contingency Fund. It must be noted that US$500 million is just around GY$105 billion (Guyana dollars) or just about one-third of Guyana’s current Budget. This money is vital to push our socio-economic development of the country, and this will also benefit future generations. But this is what the Coalition is afraid of. This will make them more irrelevant and dashed into oblivion, given their proven track record for squandering and corruption.
Then it has been much publicised that the current NRF provides for ‘no jail term’ for persons misappropriating from the Fund. This is preposterous and barefaced coming from the Coalition since the ‘Penalties and Offences’ in the current Act is a replica of the NRF Act illegally enforced by the Coalition in January 2019.
I saw APNU protestors holding placards and chanting about ‘thieving’, completely oblivious that the offences and penalties are exactly the same under the current NRF. This is gullibility to the extreme.
This NRF Bill, which is the NRF Act, is by far more superior in terms of transparency and accountability, and the Coalition is cognisant of this fact, but as is expected, they will cry corruption and hope that the masses believe them, inciting and encouraging violence and mayhem to destabilise the Government.
His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali has done an excellent summation of the Coalition’s attitude: ‘They do not regard politics as a contention for better policies and governance; they regard politics as nothing more or less than a battle for power. That is why we had the display in the National Assembly of violence and intimidation – that is their default strategy; to whip up antagonism and hostility based on misrepresentation, misbehaviour and mischief.
“My brothers and sisters, that is their game. Your Government will not play it.”