The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) in statement on Tuesday says it is pleased with the amended Natural Resources Fund (NRF) Bill’s general adherence with the international benchmark for Sovereign Wealth Funds, commonly referred to as the ‘Santiago Principles.’
However, the private sector representative body said “given the paramount importance of this Bill, and its use as a tool for intergenerational wealth transfer of the citizens of Guyana, the GCCI is of the belief that more time should be provided to the public for its input and general commentary on the Bill.”
The GGCI says it views the Bill as being an instrument of exceptional importance in the development landscape of Guyana – for current and future generations. As such, it has been carefully following the developments associated with, and analyzing in detail, the Bill since its release to the public on December 15, 2021.
It has committed to providing a detailed commentary on the Bill to Minister with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh by way of letter.
President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Tuesday noted that the Bill is structured to hold the sitting Government accountable. “We are enhancing transparency by holding ourselves accountable, by holding the Minister of Finance accountable,” he said. He noted that the bill, which will fit in the national development framework and the macro-economic framework of the country, will aid in the holistic transformation of Guyana and the lives of all Guyanese.
The President said that it was necessary to amend the 2019 version of the bill because it was unconstitutionally passed despite a successful no-confidence motion in December of 2018. Adding to its flaws were the lack of input and involvement of the opposition and the power it vested into a single individual. The President said that his Government countered this by drastically reducing the Minister’s powers, functions, and responsibilities by turning it over to a board of directors, which will be a multifaceted group of Guyanese, with varying skill sets and knowledge.
The amended bill will also explicitly require the Minister of Finance to gazette information on all revenue that comes into the fund within a three-month timeframe and to then table that information in the National Assembly. If the Minister fails to follow the process, there will be severe consequences— including imprisonment varying from three to 10 years.
Additionally, according to the bill, all the projects that will be financed will be subject to audits by the Auditor General before they are scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee.
The President said that the funds will be used for overall development, including to accelerate “our infrastructural transformation”.