EITI and the protection it offers Guyana against the ‘resource curse’
In 2002, Mr. Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, first proposed the creation of an initiative based on the principle and premise that the wealth from a country’s natural resources, should be regarded as the national patrimony, which belongs to and should benefit all its citizens.
Many countries were plagued by the “resource curse.” This is one of the greatest paradoxes of our times – the entrenched poverty, corruption, bad governance, tensions and conflicts that characterise too many countries that have been blessed with vast natural resources.
This curse occurs when the governments which received wealth earned from the extractive industries frequently and deliberately hid or mismanaged those funds. This fuelled suspicions that funds could easily be stolen or squandered rather than being used wisely for public benefit.
EITI, like another similar initiative the Open Government Partnership, (OGP), was established to help solve this problem by focusing on the public disclosure of accurate information on natural resource revenues that accrued by governments.
The initiative requires governments in participating countries to disclose revenues earned and that oil, gas and mining companies share data on payments made. These figures are then compared to discover any discrepancies, and the information made public as a way to foster public scrutiny and greater accountability over natural resource profits earned by governments.
To do this, a Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) comprising representatives of government, civil society and industry is formed to facilitate and drive the process. The Multi-stakeholder group (MSG)is central to the operation and philosophy of the EITI.
The Government of Guyana has taken a keen interest in these initiatives and has earnestly begun to take steps to participate.
According to Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman, one of the key priorities is to ensure that Guyana’s natural resources, and particularly, the oil and gas wealth that is soon to be derived, is exploited in a manner that helps spur economic development and that such development is sustainable and equitable.
In this context, EITI will bring many benefits to Guyana: an improved investment climate, a signal to international investors that the government has a clear commitment to transparency and good governance, and strengthened accountability vis-à-vis the Guyanese people. Guyana’s entry into the EITI framework is not only because of oil as our other resources must be better managed as well.
Furthermore, the EITI Standard contains the set of requirements that countries need to meet in order to be recognised as first an EITI Candidate and ultimately as one of the 51 EITI countries compliant with the EITI requirements. The Standard is overseen by the international EITI Board, with members from governments, companies and civil society.
As per EITI Requirement 1 of the EITI Standard, the Ministry of Natural Resources has been identified by Cabinet as the Lead Agency responsible for implementing the Guyana-EITI (G-EITI). The G-EITI MSG consisting of four representatives each from the Government, Industry and Civil Society.
Trotman has since informed the nation that the Ministry has had some delays in terms of having the nomination process for the sectors concluded in time for us to reach our November 2016 deadline.
“This process is now completed and I can now report that the Industry and Civil Society Representatives were independently appointed by their respective stakeholder groups. The National Secretariat for the MSG will be managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and its responsibilities encompass conceptual and organisational support for the Multi-Stakeholder Group in order to ensure the successful implementation of all EITI requirements,” expressed the Minister.
He said that the Secretariat will serve a public relations function, encouraging contact with the EITI International Secretariat, in Oslo, Norway, as well as fellow EITI Secretariats. The Secretariat will be managed by the National Coordinator.
The Government has initiated the process of addressing the staffing requirements of the National Secretariat. A Legal Officer was contracted and Government is still in the process of appointing the National Coordinator and working out capacity building initiatives with the International Secretariat.
It is worthy to note that many of the critical decisions that are to be made such as which extractive sector Guyana will focus upon in its initial years of reporting will be made within the tripartite MSG. Its role is not superficial but tremendously integral to the success or failure of the EITI process.