Opposition opts out of Govt organized activity on SWF over informal invite

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Opposition leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is offended that their invite to an event on the Sovereign Wealth Fund being hosted by the Government of Guyana (GoG) and United States-headquartered environmental organization, Conservation International (CI) came from the latter entity and not the Administration itself.

This is according to the Party’s General Secretary, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, who told reporters at his most recent press conference that no one from his Party will be in attendance.

“Now I’m seeing that CI and the Government of Guyana, they’re hosting an activity on the Sovereign Wealth Fund and what I find, some of our MPs showed me the invitation, and if this is a Government organized activity supported by the Conservation International, we should receive an invitation from the Government of Guyana, not from CI but it seems as though CI has, at least the local part of CI has become another arm of the Government of Guyana in doing this. We’re very concerned about that…and I want to make it clear, we are not going to attend any of those activities at this point in time…We’re very offended that CI would invite our MPs when the Government doesn’t and it’s an activity organized by the Government and CI together,” he explained.

United States based, Conservation International has been locally operating for over 20 years in approximately 50 communities. Their goal is to assist in the protection of some three million acres of Indigenous lands while improving livelihoods.

The activity which is being hosted by Government and CI is widespread consultations on the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

A SWF is a state owned investment fund that is made up of surpluses from official foreign currency operations, proceeds of privatisations, governmental transfer payments, fiscal surpluses and/or receipts resulting from resource exports.

It was articulated as an important mechanism for the oil and gas sector and with ExxonMobil announcing that production would start in 2020, calls have been made by stakeholders and the political opposition for its establishment to be swift.

Jagdeo had said that three years is enough time for the coalition Government to set up a SWF for the oil and gas sector, while adding that the slow pace has not gone unnoticed.

In March of 2017, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman had said that the public would have the opportunity to comment on the Guyana Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill as it was handed over to the Minister of Finance who will be responsible for tabling it in the National Assembly.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

Concerned at the slow pace also was US Ambassador to Guyana Perry Holloway who, in an opinion editorial this year, called for priority and more so public consultations to be given in the establishment of a SWF to manage the revenues expected from Guyana’s oil production.

Finance Minister, Winston Jordan who was not pleased with the concerns raised by the Ambassador had in a statement said that it gave the impression that the Government and, by extension, the Finance Ministry, under whose remit the drafting of the legislation for the SWF falls, has not made significant progress on this important piece of legislation.

As it pertains to the establishment of the SWF, the Opposition Leader noted that on multiple occasions he “urged that Government take cognizance of the Santiago Principles and a model similar to the principles on which the Norwegian model was developed. The establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund is only one element of a management framework for the sector. I have said before that there should be no ministerial involvement in the Petroleum Commission; that the remaining oil blocks should be subject to a competitive auction or kept for future generations; and that we should complete the work on the Local Content framework.”

Guyana’s SWF Bill was drafted by the Commonwealth Secretariat with input from the government and presented to the subject Minister in December, 2016.

Minister of Finance, Jordan has since publicly committed to having the legislation, pertaining to the establishment of the SWF, in the National Assembly by the end of December 2018.

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