Key stakeholders, not bodies without supporters, should be leading advocacy, lobbying efforts – Jagdeo

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The proposed amendments to the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Act has stirred some debate in certain sections of the media and frequent commentators, but Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo says the key stakeholders, and not organisations without known supporters or members, should lead these advocacy and lobby efforts.

And, at a recent private sector breakfast hosted at State House, Dr. Jagdeo called on the private sector to become more vocal about their position on government-led developmental efforts – like the menu of legislation to govern the nascent oil and gas sector.

The clear message was that lone commentators and organisations with no significant membership were speaking on related issues, often misleading the public without any in-depth analysis.

The proposed amendments to the NRF Act – which governs Guyana’s oil fund – were tabled in the National Assembly on December 16. It will be debated on Wednesday.

While the Vice President champions this as a sound piece of legislation that will guarantee transparency and accountability in managing Guyana’s oil wealth, some small civil society organisations contend that some provisions are concerning.

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI), together with the little known Policy Forum Guyana (PFG) and Article 13, are civil society bodies calling for the deferral of the debate on the amendments until citizens can consider it.

The Vice President, however, said that some of these organisations do not have many members or supporters but are sometimes “taken seriously” in Guyana and internationally.

According to the Vice President, key stakeholders include the local private sector and representative bodies of organised labour. These bodies, he said, have known constituencies and have “legitimacy”.

“Too often, the key stakeholders in this country don’t want to fight their own fight, and they expect the government to fight.

“… if you are partners in development, you have to also wage that fight at least at the advocacy level,” the Vice President emphasised.

He clarified that the government is not asking for these stakeholders to “slavishly support” the government, but he contended that these key stakeholders should ensure that they communicate their positions on crucial matters.

While some of these groups contend that the existing NRF Act underwent extensive consultations before its passage, these amendments have not benefited from that widespread input.

The Vice President, however, pointed out that the NRF Act was passed after the previous APNU+AFC coalition government had been defeated, following the successful passage of a no-confidence motion.

And so, that Act did not get any input from the PPP/C parliamentary opposition, which is currently in government.

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