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The NRF bill was a step in the correct direction, but it is far from complete. Many are calling for safeguards and penalties that directly deal with any misuse of funds. Although the current laws do address this issue indirectly, putting in place laws specifically to address this issue would help calm concerns and also ensure there is the level of accountability expected around the management of the NRF.
The current Administration should also consider whether the management and selection process they have outlined will be one that they can comfortably live with if they were in the opposition. The President does continue to hold the final say as to who will lead the decision making on the funds. After witnessing the recent chaos in Parliament, many of us would be more comfortable if a more neutral and objective decision making process was used.
On a more fundamental note, the funds in the NRF should have a minimum amount held in place to cover the expenses of decommissioning wells, the clean up of a major oil spill and or cyanide spill. Omai does have a history with Guyana and their record is concerning. It wasn’t too long ago that there was dead fish floating along the river near their mining operations. In my younger days you could go fishing in front of your home without a worry of contamination.
There was a story that our elders use to tell us that is important to remember. A foreigner came to visit and saw a Guyanese fishing in his hammock. The foreigner told him to build a large boat so he could catch a lot of fish and sell them for money, which he could then use to build all sorts of things and then he would have enough left over to have fun. The Guyanese asked the foreigner what kind of fun would he be able to have? The foreigner told him that he could go fishing without a worry in the world. The Guyanese told him that he is already fishing without a worry in the world. Given the current developments in the country the fish may become contaminated with oil and cyanide by the time it reaches the dinner table. We may end up having to buy it from the fish farms.
Comrades, it is good to have progress, but we must remember to eat a little and live long. The current approach by the EPA, the ongoing questionable performance of the airport improvement project and the need for thorough fiscal audits across a number of Sectors does not leave that sense of safety and trust that would say we have nothing to worry about. Ongoing flooding is getting worse and handouts / hampers are a bandaid that will not fix the major problems coming on the horizon. If our country is going to survive major climate change and preserve the pristine and healthy environment we are all used to, then the investments planned to be made with the NRF must clearly eliminate the perils before us. Thus far the planned investments do not clearly do this, and the current Administration must take a brave step forward towards clearly addressing the flooding, the risks the country will face in the resource extraction sectors and the significant increase seen in COVID 19 cases.
Define what is the minimum needed to cover the critical expenses in the event of an emergency and ensure those funds are always available. This is much more important than using the available funds to build a pipeline during a period in our country’s history when project overages are becoming a norm. If the current forecasted earnings for the country is true then every household will be that much closer to being millionaires. This should be enough motivation to those who have been given an opportunity to lead to make the best long term decisions in the best interest of all Guyanese. There is no need for greed, theft and irresponsible decision making. Ensure that when you have your share that you can enjoy it in an environment where your health is not compromised. Unfortunately, man has a tendency to be self destructive if left to do as he pleases. More reason to ensure that as a society we not only self regulate, but also hold those given an opportunity to lead accountable for his / her actions with clear policies and laws that ensure transparency and good long term decision making.
Mr. Jamil Changlee
The Cooperative Republicans of Guyana