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Prof. Clive Thomas appointed presidential advisor; spearheading search for stolen state assets

Distinguished Professor Clive Thomas (Stabroek News photo)

Distinguished Economics Professor, Clive Thomas has been appointed Presidential Advisor on Sustainable Development, andc he will focus largely on the recovery of billions of dollars of stolen assets that experts believe have been stashed away locally and overseas.

When Thomas takes up his appointment on July 1, he would be also assisting with tax reform and the planned commission of inquiry into the financially crippled Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuco).

He told Demerara Waves Online News that Guyana intends to seek foreign help under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led administration had signed on to in 2005. Asked how he intends going about his search locally, he declined to divulge the strategies and would only say that foreign help would be provided. “That requires a lot of intelligence, a lot of hard work but we would depend on international cooperation including the provision of technical assistance,” he said.

Thomas said there is definite link between Sustainable Development and recovering stolen assets. “Unless you get financing for development, you can’t get sustainable development,” he said. He said if a programme is put in place to disallow persons from hiding public assets in any part of the world would go a long way to reducing external dependence. “Of course, we want to be able to finance as much of the development as we can rather than to rely on external assistance,” said Professor Thomas, a one-time head of the University of Guyana’s Institute of Development Studies (IDS).

The Presidential Advisor noted that the newly-elected Guyana government’s quest to recover stolen assets was in line with the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development to be held from July 13 to 16 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda to be held from September 25 to 27 in New York.

The world-renowned Third World Economist highlighted that the agenda for the Conference on Financing Development includes a “commitment by the global community to try to stop the stolen public assets from not being recovered.” Among the ambitious targets being set by the international community, he said, is to reduce the quantity of stolen assets by 40 percent.

He said experts have estimated that Guyana has lost US$143 million dollars in illicit outflows through the banking system and trade in 2014.  Economists also estimate that Guyana’s underground economy is about 30 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Writing in the privately-owned Stabroek News, Professor Thomas estimates that between GUY$333 and 340 billion in public assets have been stolen with Public Procurement accounting for $28-35 billion, illegal capital outflows $90 billion, underground economy $188 billion, tax reforms yield $21 billion, and PetroCaribe fraud $6 billion

Asked why cash provided by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is being stolen despite rigid programmes to ensure transparency and accountability, he said those funding agencies have also recognized that they have not done enough to tighten the screws on corruption. “That is why they themselves are establishing and are being concerned about lack of proper oversight because they had oversight into Guyana’s economy and yet all this has taken place during their watch so some of the things that have been exposed from their figures show that they have not been doing a proper job,” he said.

Among the transnational anti-corruption architecture is the United States’ Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act (FATCA) that requires all Americans and US Permanent Residents to declare their bank accounts in other countries.