‘Local Content, NRF Acts designed to empower Guyanese’ – Foreign Affairs Minister
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd, has highlighted the empowering importance of the Local Content and Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Acts, which became law just mere weeks ago. The foreign affairs minister promulgated this when he met with residents of Linden on Wednesday, as part of his one-day visit to the mining town.
“We want you to benefit from the oil and gas sector. It’s your oil. We are just here to ensure that you get the best out of it. When you look at the Local Content Act and the Natural Resources Act, both are written in simple language, nothing complex …
When we talk about transparency and accountability, and ensuring that Guyana wins, both Acts are designed to do that; to empower Guyana and Guyanese and to put Guyanese first so that we could be a true beacon for the Caribbean,” Minister Todd outlined to the residents.
He said further, that government intends to use the funds from the oil industry, to diversify the other traditional sectors in Guyana. These he listed as infrastructure, education, healthcare, agriculture and security. This diversification is in keeping with His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s vision of not depending solely on the oil and gas sector.
“We will take the oil money and invest it in all of the other sectors… When you look at our developmental framework, it is designed to put people first.”
The Local Content Act is one of the two new oil laws that have been highly praised, particularly by Guyana’s private sector. The law ensures that preference is given to Guyanese and Guyanese businesses in the procurement of goods and services for the oil and gas sector. In also ensures the transfer of knowledge and skills training in the lucrative sector.
Through this mechanism, businesses would be able to secure US$400 to $500 million annually from the country’s oil and gas sector.
The Natural Resource Fund is another critical instrument used to ensure the prudent, transparent and accountable management of Guyana’s oil funds. The People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Government made a few amendments to the previous model of the Act. One of the amendments sees the establishment of a crucial body to manage the fund. It also removed what was labelled as “untenable power” which was vested in the Minister of Finance in terms of the governing and use of the fund.
Hefty punishment for secrecy
Senior Minister in the Office of the President Dr. Ashni Singh reminded that the Act has an anti-corruption mechanism that would prevent secrecy in the collection of funds.
“We have now introduced the requirement to publish in the Official Gazette and table in Parliament, every single receipt into the fund within three months, which is a feature that was not in the previous Act. And what that does, is it ensures that the fiasco whereby the APNU+AFC minister attempted to conceal the receipt of US$18 million can never happen again…”
If someone fails to comply with the obligation of publishing this information, they will be held liable on conviction to indictment to a fine of $5 million and imprisonment for 10 years. These provisions, the minister said, make this Act vastly superior to the previous one.