Shuman urges public to examine positives of new Natural Resource Fund Act

Deputy Speaker and Member of Parliament, Lenox Shuman, has complimented the Government of Guyana on the Natural Resource Fund Act 2021 which was passed into law in December. After careful examination of the legislation, he is urging the public to examine the positives of the Act.

“While I am constrained in Parliament, by the joinder agreement which binds the tri-party agreement and voting, I express my support for the NRF bill. It is my view that the criticism of the government is misplaced in the Bill’s content but is justified on its process,” Shuman said.

His views are captured in an open letter to several media houses.

The replacement of NRF Act 2019 with NRF Act 2021 mainly serves to establish a new governance mechanism in the form of a board of directors, to reduce overly bureaucratic provisions, and to simplify the rules governing withdrawals.

Deputy Speaker and Member of Parliament, Lenox Shuman

Shuman said ultimately, the aim is to ensure greater accountability, transparency, and prudent governance of the fund with the apex oversight body being the National Assembly, and the Public Accounts Committee as its informative tool.

“Those are further supported by the Bank of Guyana, the Board of Directors, and the National Procurement and Tender Board Administration, all in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance, and all of these are included in the Bill and all are legal entities.”

The Act allows for a withdrawal of the total balance of the Fund in its first fiscal year. In a December press statement responding to a criticism of the Fund, the Ministry of Finance had said it is necessary for the government to use Guyana’s resources to fund its development agenda, instead of relying on debt. Shuman agrees with this position.

He also lauded the government for sticking to its principled position of refusing to spend the oil funds, for nearly two years, until after the revamping of the legislation.

“That they took no such opportunity [to make withdrawals] and instead delayed it to better gauge the fiscal needs and trajectory of the country, no doubt signals their intent to be responsible and prudent managers of the economy.”

Commenting on the manner in which the APNU+AFC coalition expressed its disagreement with the law, Shuman said, “the attempted theft of the 2020 election does not give rise to an environment that fosters consensus-building on anything in Parliament, as one party seems bent on creating a destabilising environment as is continuously demonstrated by their actions and behaviour in Parliament, and the other is asked to govern in that environment.”

He said he had hoped for a more consultative process, but that the reality is that the country suffered tremendously over the last three years, from the events following the December 2018 No Confidence Motion, the five-month electoral impasse, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unprecedented flooding.

He said the NRF Act should be part of the machinery used to ensure the benefits of the oil and gas industry meet all citizens.