GEORGETOWN, Guyana– The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Wednesday called on the government to postpone debate on the Natural Resource Fund Bill (2021) even as it welcomed the government’s effort at improving accountability and the management of Guyana’s earnings from oil resources.
“Given the paramount importance of this Bill, and its use as a tool for intergenerational wealth transfer of the citizens of Guyana, the GCCI believes that more time should be provided to the public for its input and general commentary on the Bill,” the Chamber said in a statement.
President Dr. Irfaan Ali, in a radio and television broadcast on Tuesday, said the Bill, which is due to be debated later on Wednesday, will aid in the holistic transformation of Guyana and the lives of all citizens.
“I want to assure you that the Natural Resource Fund will be managed in the interest of every Guyanese and the interest of all Guyana. We have outlined very clearly the type of expenditure: people-centered, people-oriented, to add disposable income to people’s pocket, to give them the best possible social services, to enhance their livelihood, to improve their lives, to change the image of Guyana, and to transform our country.”
The statement by the GCCI follows similar sentiments from four organizations, including the opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and A New and United Guyana (ANUG), that the government is setting the stage to waste the country’s oil revenues under the guise of emergency use.
In its statement, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it had been carefully following the developments associated with the Bill and analyzing its detail since it was released to the public a week ago.
The Chamber of Commerce said it understands the need for the revision of the Natural Resources Fund as outlined by the President and would like to commend the government for improving public accountability and transparency concerning the management and operation of the Fund.
“The Chamber of Commerce will be transmitting to the Minister with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, by way of letter, our detailed commentary on the Natural Resources Fund Bill,” the statement said, adding that it remains committed to being a partner in national development and anticipates continued steps to support inclusive growth for Guyanese.
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) said the Natural Resource Fund Bill would allow the government to withdraw US$1,250 million of the first two billion US dollars, but that would not include withdrawals for emergency financing.
“We also find contentious the provision in the First Schedule to the Bill allowing the Government to appropriate the first US$500 million in the Fund, 75 percent of the next US$500 million or US$375 million, 50 percent of the next US$500 million or US$250 million, and 25 percent of the next $500 million or US$125 million.”