Jagdeo gives reasons for blocking opposition nominees to NRF Board, refusal to compromise on spending

Last Updated on Friday, 25 March 2022, 23:06 by Denis Chabrol

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo on Friday defended his administration’s decision to shut out all of the opposition’s nominees to sit on the board of the Natural Resources Fund and indicated there was hardly any room for compromise with the opposition in approving spending.

The Vice President sought to justify government’s selection of former People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) parliamentarian Dunstan Barrow as the parliamentary representative on the NRF  Board saying he “has enormous financial skills; he is not an active politician so we needed that, we needed diversity but not political diversity there.” Mr. Jagdeo added that government did not want a board that would end up with political bickering between the government and the opposition.

According to Mr. Jagdeo, government wanted the Board to remain a technical body but when asked what would have been government’s position if  the coalition had nominated a technical expert, he said a “number of people there were political and some have pecuniary interest; a couple that were there are doing work for oil and gas companies; accounting work, auditing work; they have pecuniary interest.”

He said government was determined to deliver on its election campaign promises rather than giving leeway for the opposition to decide how monies should be spent. “Of course, at the end of the day, regardless of the debate, the government would have to pass its programmes; that is what it campaigned on,” he said, even as he queried whether his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) could return to the electorate in another five years and inform that some promises could not be delivered because a number of objections by the opposition had been accepted.

“That’s why you fight for a majority in countries to implement your programne. I don’t understand the logic of this so you’re suggesting that we must sit in Parliament to give APNU (A Partnership for National Unity) the veto power to approve,” he said. The Vice President cited the failure to appoint a substantive Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice because the opposition has been refusing to exercise that agreement.

“You can’t denude government. Nobody does that in the world to the point where it’s ineffective and that’s what they want but they didn’t want that in the last government,” he said in reference to when A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) had won the 2015 general and regional elections.

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), which leads the APNU+AFC coalition, has accused government of excluding the opposition although it had been declared to have won about 218,000 votes.

While Guyana’s current expenditure has grown by about 19 percent in the 2022 National Budget, he said capital expenditure has increased by 107 percent. “That’s building for the future; that’s getting our plan going so we can diversify the economy to avoid the Dutch disease to create jobs in other sectors,” he said.

Referring to the “consumption based” spending by the coalition government, he vowed that  his People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration would not engage with the opposition in incurring a lot of expenditures. “We are not just for the public show of getting APNU or that we are consulting take this country down that path that would lead right back to the past (in which) we are poor, we are living above our means and we rack up debt,” he said.

During 2015 to 2020, the International Monetary Fund had expressed concern about the huge overdraft at the Bank of Guyana.

He said the PPP wanted to work genuinely with the opposition based on principles and long-term commitment “but we are not going to be duped.”

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has nominated city business executive Ramesh Dookhoo. President Irfaan Ali is now set to select three persons to join the five-member NTF Board.