Pres. Ali turned down offer for upscale office complex, says focus is on sustainable spending
President Irfaan Ali has said his government turned down offers to build an upscale office complex for him, indicating his government will not be caught in the trap of lavish and unnecessary spending of the country’s oil wealth.
The President said now that Guyana has begun exploiting its oil and gas resources, his focus is on sustainable management and thoughtful allocation of the newfound wealth.
To demonstrate his seriousness in this regard, Dr. Ali disclosed that he recently turned down offers for what he described as “fanciful spending.”
“We have had many people asking to build a new office complex for the presidency, a new government complex… they say don’t worry about money, we will build it and you rent it from us.
“We don’t want that; we are very comfortable in the office that has supported and housed the Office of the President since independence… nothing is wrong with that building,” the President said.
It is for this reason and with intent to avoid the resource curse that Dr. Ali demonstrated to the international community on Wednesday his government’s policies and management techniques that rest on ensuring sustainable spending.
Speaking during a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, Dr. Ali traced Guyana’s journey from being one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere to now one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
“If you don’t have resources you have to manage for the best outcome and if you have resources you have to manage sustainably… the common factor is management and people decide what is good management,” Dr. Ali said when asked about his plans to avoid the resource curse.
Dr. Ali admittedly noted that the country’s aged and dilapidated public infrastructure needed transforming and modernisation but said it would not be done fancifully.
“When you have a lot of resources you get excited and want to build 10 highways when the country only needs three… it’s about striking the balance and defining financing priorities as a matter of preference.
“I go to many forums and they say, ‘oh you’re from Guyana, the new rich kid on the block’… I say, ‘No, no. I’m from Guyana the humble country that is poor and looking for concessional financing’,” Dr. Ali said.
He then doubled back to make the point that to tackle the resource curse, those entrusted with the management of the resource must stay in tune with reality.
He said people must not change who they are to spend what they don’t have to rack up debt in an unsustainable way while counting on revenues that they have not seen yet.
“That’s the curse!” he said.
But Guyana is trying to steer away from that.
“It is building capacity and systems and structures of management and governance to ensure you avoid those pitfalls.
“That is how this process is evolving,” he added.
The Guyanese Head of State talked up the independence of the natural resource fund, disclosures of oil revenue and penalties for non-disclosure, the independent investment committee and legislative oversight.
He said the system is being built to ensure people’s participation.