Natural Resources Fund Act needs robust governance reform

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Dear Editor

An Open Letter has been sent to the Minister of Natural Resources (MNR), endorsed by twenty-eight civic organizations, calling for further consultation on the Natural Resources Fund Act (NRFA). Policy Forum Guyana (PFG) which facilitated the letter welcomes the Government’s intention to return the original Act to Parliament in the near future in order to address deficiencies, particularly in the area of governance.

(See Attachments)
Well-crafted amendments to the NRFA should focus on strengthening transparency and national accountability features, encouraging citizens to feel they have a vested interest in the management of the Fund.
Many of the twenty-eight (28) endorsing organizations have participated in earlier attempts to address governance issues prior to the approval of the original NRF Bill in 2017 and 2018 through ‘round table discussions, ‘open space’ meetings and ‘citizens assemblies’ organized by Policy Forum Guyana and others. These discussions took place in all of the coastal areas and to a more the limited extent in interior Regions, as reflected in the fact that endorsing organizations are located in Regions 1, 2, 4, 6, 9 and 10.

The results of those engagements are summarized in the list of proposed reforms submitted to the Minister with the Open Letter. That List serves to provide evidence of the work done to date, supporting the call for further consultation, rather than suggest it represents all of the issues endorsing organizations may wish to raise. Originally prepared in 2018 the List needs to be validated and extended as a result of learning generated in the intervening period.

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Policy Forum Guyana will shortly launch a series of Citizens’ Assemblies on key domestic issues which to date have been marginalized by internationally-driven agenda in the petroleum sector. These include such issues as Guyana’s climate crisis commitments; ‘Citizens Dividend’ payments directly to Guyanese; civic involvement in the structure of the NRFA.

‘Citizens Assemblies’ are not simply discussion sessions. They aim to progressively arrive at a position being taken which can subsequently be the basis for engaging decision-makers in Parliament and elsewhere. Each Assembly starts with two brief presentations on an issue, for and against, followed by both virtual and in-person discussion. Participants then choose sides: agree, disagree or ‘uncertain’. The further discussion then focuses on clarifying uncertainties and an eventual final vote.

The aims are to educate citizens, develop the confidence and capacity to argue and advocate constructively, and develop decision-making alternatives to the ethnic polarization which distorts so much of our public life. Hopefully, the experience will also influence the development of broad cross-party support for a reformed NRF Act.

Regards
POLICY FORUM GUYANA



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