Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo’s boast that his People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-administration is responsible for Guyana becoming an oil-producing nation, and suggestion that the two-year old coalition administration should set up the Norway-model Sovereign Wealth Fund sparked off Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman labelling him a “waste.”
Jagdeo called on government to swiftly enact legislation that would pave the way for the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund, saying the Norway approach is best for Guyana to manage and save large inflows pf oil revenues. “That’s why a Sovereign Wealth Fund of the Norwegian type model, not a Trinidad and Tobago model, should be established and brought to this House urgently to ensure that we can manage those resources well,” he said.
However, the Minister of Natural Resources told Jagdeo that his suggested model for the fund is outdated. “Mr. Speaker, all those who lecture about Norwegian models obviously are in the dark ages because the new literature says that the Norway model cannot apply to countries that are developing like Guyana. Do some new reading. You are in the past. You are in the past, You are a relic. You are a relic. Your time has past, you are irrelevant and your time is up” said Trotman.
Just before Jagdeo concluded his contribution to the debate on the Petroleum Commission Bill, he remarked that the APNU+AFC coalition administration would lose the next general elections due in another three years. “By bye 2020,” said the former President who many believe has his eyes set on the presidency again if the Caribbean Court of Justice upholds a Guyana Court of Appeal ruling that a two-term presidential term limit is unconstitutional.
But Trotman later retorted: “Mr Speaker, the Opposition Leader has to remember he is in the Opposition and has to remain in the Opposition….We will not be lectured by the Leader of the Opposition on good governance; anybody else…never, never, never”
The Opposition Leader and the Minister of Natural Resources also tangled over the attraction of major investments to Guyana during the past two years, with Jagdeo saying that it was the PPP that not only brought ExxonMobil to Guyana but also two major gold producers that today contribute to the country’s revenue.
“You are not the initiators, the creators of this industry. You now have been given temporary stewardship over the industry and so I would urge you to be constantly reminded that so far we have seen a lot of talk about gold production and largely because of the efforts of the People’s Progressive Party and the new people who were brought in here so I am glad that this government is so excited by these sectors given the efforts of the People’s Progressive Party government; they should really be thankful,” Jagdeo told the House.
He added that the Opposition was not jealous or envious about the oil industry, but was “worried about incompetence” that would lead to the oil earnings being squandered by government.
Trotman, in wrapping up debate, vowed that he would not allow himself to be lectured by Jagdeo, whose tenure as President from 1999 to 2011, had been characterised by drug money and corruption and several failed projects like the US$200 million Skeldon Sugar Factory, Marriott Hotel as well as the Berbice River Bridge, and the National Insurance Scheme. “Every sector that he touched is down because of him,” he said. “You could say whatever, you are failure. You are a failure. That is why you are sitting there because you failed, that is why you sitting over there. You failed.”
The Minister of Natural Resources slammed Jagdeo for “grazing which ended in the gutter” and later cautioned him by implication against doing so again. “Some of us should not go about grazing because they are dirtying themselves and they are smelling bad,” he said
The Petroleum Commission of Guyana Bill has been sent to a bipartisan parliamentary select committee. The Board of the regulatory semi-autonomous body will include a representative each from the opposition and civil society.
When the Petroleum Commission is established, it will take over all responsibilities for the petroleum sector from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.