The amendments brought by the PPP/C government to amend, simplify and make more transparent the existing Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Act were passed on Wednesday night, after significant disruption gripped the National Assembly.
Before Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh could even pilot the debate on the Bill with the amendments, members of the opposition got up and protested- calling for the Bill to be sent to a Special Select Committee instead.
After a short recess and despite continued “thuggish behaviour” as the Finance Minister called it, Dr. Singh continued to present on the proposed amendments. Members of the government surrounded the Finance Minister, allowing him to complete his presentation on the bill without physical disruption.
The Speaker too was surrounded by parliamentary officers.
As the Finance Minister completed his presentation on the Bill, it was proposed that the Bill be read for a second time and Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira put the Bill to the vote.
Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir put all 47 clauses and two schedules to the vote. And, the government with its majority in the National Assembly voted in favour of the amendments.
Instead of being put to a vote after presentations from a number of speakers from both sides of the House, the Bill was passed.
Importantly, one of the major changes would be the institution of a hefty 10-year imprisonment penalty if the Finance Minister does not reveal that oil monies have been received, after at least three months of receiving those revenues.
Aside from the jail-time proposal, the other amendments include revamping the NRF oversight committee which comprises 22 organisations, and establishing a Board of Directors that separates the subject Minister and the Management of the Fund.
A simpler mathematical formula that the “complex” formula used for the NRF is also being proposed to determine how the money accumulated will be saved and spent.