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Private sector organisation calls for more time for public input in new ‘oil money’ law

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 December 2021, 12:40 by Denis Chabrol

Pressure early Wednesday after continued to intensify on government to put a brake on debate and passage of the controversial Natural Resource Fund Bill so that the public can be involved in crafting the new law, less than two hours before it is due to be considered by the National Assembly.

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GGCI) issued the call as opposition political parties and four civil society organisations issued similar calls to allows for greater public consultations.

“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,” the GCCI said.

The Chamber said it would be dispatching a letter to Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh containing “our detailed commentary on the Natural Resources Fund Bill.”

The City Chamber’s voice is added to those of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), A New and United Guyana as well as the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc, the pro-inclusionary democracy organisation, Article 13 and the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA).

Earlier Wednesday, at the commencement of a sitting of the National Assembly, House Speaker Manzoor Nadir told parliamentarians that he received a petition from the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs shorty after 9:30 and did not have time to peruse it.

Outside of the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown where the sitting of the National Assembly is  being held, PNCR supporters and other aggrieved persons picketed and chanted against government’s plan to debate and pass the legislation.

They are all essentially protesting against the presidential appointment of a Board to manage the petroleum fund and the reduction in an oversight committee from 22 to nine.

The PNCR and three of the civil society organisations are also railing against the new formula for the withdrawal of oil revenues, saying that that will leave the door open for the remainder to be spent under the guise of emergency financing.

The GCCI says the Natural Resource Fund Bill is an “instrument of exceptional importance in the development landscape of Guyana – for current and future generations. The Chamber commended the government for attempting to improve public accountability and transparency with respect to the management and operation of the Fund. “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.’