Civil Society Member withdraws signature from letter objecting to NRF Bill

-- says he now has a clearer understanding of govt's objectives

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See below letter by Charles Sugrim, a member of the Civil Society Group that objected to the proposed amendments of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Bill:

Gentlemen,

I have read the amendments to the bill that Parliament is expected to debate tomorrow. I believe that I rushed to put my name on the objection of the bill. Having read it, the proposals on the bill are as follows:

  1. There should be a management team made up of a Board of Directors of 9-10 persons. The Directors will be selected from a wide range of disciplines, including, but not limited to, Finance, Accounting, Economic, Legal and so on. The Board, not the Minister, will be responsible for the management of the Funds.
  2. Secondly, there will be an independent oversight committee whose membership will be drawn from the Private Sector, Labor movement, Religious groups, from the Professions, and Parliament. This oversight committee will be independent of the Board of Directors and will submit their annual report to parliament for debate.
  3. The formula for the transfer of funds into the Consolidated Funds is included in the Bill. Everyone will be able to do an analysis of the transfers into the Consolidated Fund. The Central Bank will be pivotal in the management of the funds.
  4. The Minister of Finance will have to make public all receipt of funds from the oil revenue that was transferred into the Consolidated Funds. Failure to make the transfers public can result of imprisonment of the Minister for up to 10 years.
  5. All investment income earned by the funds will be capitalized. The income will be compounded, thus making the fund progressively greater. All earnings will remain in the fund.

Let not emotion guides our action. Guyana need a lot of Capital Investments in every sector of our economy. It does not make sense that we have to borrow funds from external forces while we have a source of inflows from the oil deposits. The amendments, if passed, will restrict how much of the inflows can be used by the government. This, in my view, is very sound.

In the existing bill, the Minister of Finance would have had the final say in all decision making. The 22 members would have had very little say on how the funds should be managed and used. This 22 member committee seem like a dysfunctional group. The concept is good, but the reality is that the makeup of the group was geared to give the Minister unbridled power over the fund. (It reminds me of the Elections Commission, where the Chairman makes all the decision).

Having now satisfied myself that the amendments are sound, I hereby, withdraw my objections from the passing of the Bill. I am in support of the Bill and request that my name be withdrawn from opposing the proposed amendments.

Regards

Charles Sugrim

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