GMSA review of Green Paper stirs up debate

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Some of the persons present an the GMSA panel discussion

A panel discussion facilitated by Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) that looked at the framework model for the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) for the oil and gas sector was discussed extensively on Thursday by an elite group of Guyanese professionals with several criticisms and recommendations coming out.

The discussion surrounded the Green Paper that was recently laid in the National Assembly of Guyana.

During a panel discussion that looked at the plan proposed by Government for the Sovereign Wealth Fund, outspoken commentator, lawyer and accountant Christopher Ram had a mouthful to say.

He posited that the Green Paper is more like a White Paper. He claims that it is descriptive, since it does not provide options and variables, nor list advantages or disadvantages of such a fund.

“We still don’t have the prospecting license, we don’t have the production license, the Government have not formulated a depletion policy and we have no local content policy, I did say that we had no projections but I’m glad to see that we have some projection” Ram revealed.

Ram thinks the paper has paid some lip service to the Dutch disease, particularly as it relates to the impact on exchange rate, inflation, unemployment, balance of payment, and unbalanced development, among others.

Giving his views, GMSA President Shyam Nokta, said that he believes that there is need to create room for a broader group of stakeholder involvement in shaping this Green Paper as well as in the oversight and management of the SWF.

GMSA President Shyam Nokta

And as such, he proposed that mechanisms be put in place to facilitate this and for it to also be reflected in legislation on the SWF.

He further stated that considering the timelines with oil production expected in 2020, perhaps things are not moving at the pace they should.

Moreover, the GMSA head explained that several issues emerged when they reviewed the Green Paper.

He highlighted that concerns were raised, among other things, with Paper’s guiding principles, its governance arrangements, mechanisms to trigger access to the SWF and the role envisaged for civil society and the private sector.

Speaking on the same issue was veteran trade unionist Lincoln Lewis who said that the Government has failed to engage the Guyanese people in active consultation to hear from them what they would like to see done with the resources from the oil and gas sector.

“Constitutionally article 13 speaks about inclusionary democracy, it says that anything that affects the economic and social well being of the people, they must be consulted. This thing has been conceptualized, developed; it is organizations such as this one that sponsors an engagement. Conservation  internationally but where are the people?” Lewis observed and questioned.

Meanwhile, University of Guyana lecturer Carol Webster says there is need for a clearer rules set out in the Fund that will guarantee sustainability and the equal distribution of wealth.

“While across future generations the paper mentions that sustainability would be assured, based on the fiscally sustainable amount, how about within the current generation. How will we ensure equity across regions and within sectors , how will priority be determined, what’s the prospective on wealth generation and wealth consumption and how do we seek those type of balances” Webster offered.

The format for the Discussion Forum also included a representative of the Ministry of Finance making a presentation of the Green Paper.

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