US Diplomat urges private sector to hold Gov’t accountable

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United States Ambassador to Guyana Sarah Ann Lynch on Tuesday urged the private sector to hold the Government accountable on the management of revenues derived from the oil and gas sector.

Delivering her speech on “Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Implementation” at a luncheon hosted by the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston Georgetown Tuesday, the US diplomat said while the fund is primarily managed by the Government, its operation and success is heavily dependent on the private sector.

The diplomat urged the business community to be more proactive and formulate a plan to spend the revenues as effective management of the NRF can help to increase entrepreneurship. This she said helps to tackle some of the country’s greatest challenges such as youth unemployment and emigration from Guyana.

In a room full of local and foreign business persons, the Diplomat called on the GMSA to partner with other private sector bodies and devise a calculated strategic plan of action that targets job creation, investment, long term revenue management.

A section of the gathering at the GMSA luncheon

“You have a unique opportunity to advocate for Government action with the goal of ensuring that the NRF is implemented properly from the start, before the profits from first oil begin, to ensure those profits benefit the Guyanese people well into the future,” the Ambassador said.

“Lobby for expertise, information sharing and transparency, and broaden the exchange of ideas,” she added.

The Ambassador outlined four pillars for a successful SWF. Those are; independent, transparent, inviolable and non-partisan.

She pointed out that the private sector needs to ensure these goals are met.

Independent – the first point – seeks to ensure that the fund is governed by persons who do not stand to benefit in any way.

Transparency refers to the publication of high-quality information on how the fund receives or spends and manages the public resource.

President of the GMSA, Clinton Williams

“You can constantly advocate for regular public disclosure of the investment objectives of the NRF, its funding, withdrawals and spending, as well as other pertinent information, to help ensure that there is no misuse of the fund and that all of Guyana benefits from its operation,” the US Ambassador said.

As it relates to inviolable or security, the Ambassador noted that the fund must be constant across all Governments for decades to come.

As such, having a non-partisan fund is most important the Diplomat said as she noted that it must be for the benefit of all Guyanese, regardless of political persuasion, hometown or ethnicity.

“This is not about politics; it is about economics,” she said.

“You as representatives of the private sector must do your part to ensure that the decisions your organisations make are impartial, objective, and free from political bias so that they remain focused on economics rather than politics,” Lynch added.

President of the GMSA, Clinton Williams said there are significant risks and benefits to be derived from the discoveries of oil and gas offshore Guyana and therefore he welcomes the Ambassadors remarks.

The Natural Resources Fund Bill governing the SWF was passed in the National Assembly in January. The bill caters for the management of funds from oil production which is set to begin in early 2020.

The Bank of Guyana is responsible for holding the fund for its operational management while the Finance Minister is responsible for the overall management of the fund.

In a recent interview with the media, the Central Bank Governor, Dr Gobind Ganga said the bank is putting measures in place to operationalize the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

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