PPP moving full speed ahead to loot the Natural Resource Fund; despite widespread criticism

The recent announcement by Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo that the installed PPP regime intends to withdraw money from the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) has confirmed what most Guyanese had already known; the PPP intends to get its hands on Guyana’s oil-money. In a recent interview with another media-house, Jagdeo said the oil revenues contained within the NRF will be used to partly finance Budget 2022.

Natural Resource Fund Expert and Economist Andrew Bauer recently intimated to Stabroek News, as its headline read, that the NTF is the,  ‘Most top heavy bureaucracy for any sovereign wealth fund I have seen’. One notes that few Guyanese appear to be surprised by the announcement of Jagdeo, since, those to which this publication spoke with expressed the view that the PPP regime has been setting the stage to loot the NRF — which currently holds some US$607 million — since the moment that regime was installed in August 2020. One citizen said that this most recent move by the PPP is one that is intended to nudge-open the door to the NRF, following which, a stampede of looting of the NRF by the PPP may be expected.

It should be noted that the National Budget is usually financed through the Consolidated Fund which holds all revenues raised by government through taxation. The Consolidated Fund, which is governed by Article 216 of the Constitution, “should be the source of all foreseeable budgetary subventions,” said one analyst. “Only in situations of emergency should government deviate from that pattern that is prescribed in Guyana’s Constitution,” the analyst added.

The NRF, which was set up under the APNU+AFC government to protect Guyana’s oil-money had multiple oversight mechanisms built into it by the APNU+AFC administration. However, those oversight systems were stripped away by the installed PPP regime on December 29 of last year when the PPP passed the Natural Resource Fund Bill amid a chaotic session of Parliament. To date, the APNU+AFC opposition parties have maintained that the legislation — which removed external checks and balances, and gave full control over Guyana’s oil-money to the PPP — was improperly handled, and was therefore not legally passed by parliament.

Chartered Accountant and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran recently also expressed concern the President’s unbridled  discretion to appoint the NRF board, deeming it detrimental to development. It is to be expected that the parliamentary opposition will do everything in its power to prevent the stripping of the fund by the PPP. One opposition activist asked the important question most clearly; the activist wrote, “In the absence of the Natural Resource Fund, what would be the source of funding for Budget 2022?”

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