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Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Aubrey Norton, while welcoming the Heads of State and key players in the Petroleum Sector to Guyana’s International Energy Conference and Expo 2022, complained that there is an increasing economic disparity between developments within the country’s budding Oil and Gas Sector and the quality of life experienced by the Guyanese people.
“As we welcome these Heads of state and Government, they should be made aware that the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) remains committed to its call for the country’s oil wealth to be used for the benefit of all Guyanese, especially those who are less fortunate and poverty-stricken.
Even as oil production is about to triple, there continues to be an increasing disconnect between such developments (inclusive of international oil conferences) and the daily reality and experiences of ordinary Guyanese,” Norton said in a public address on Monday, ahead of today’s (February 15) opening of the Energy Conference at the Marriott Hotel.
He said the 2022 National Budget, the country’s first oil budget, compounded the pervasive sense of despondency among citizens by its stingy offerings to the poor and its generosity to the well-off and the well-connected.
“If our rich natural resources cannot be used to uplift our people and transform the country urgently and comprehensively, then what will?” he questioned.
According to Norton, when the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) – for which PNCR forms a large part – returns to Government, it will ensure that international conferences, such as the Energy Conference, are designed to provide solutions for the eradication of poverty, and the advancement of social inclusion, equity and sustainable development.
The PNCR Leader also iterated contentions by the APNU+AFC that the parliamentary opposition was not formally invited to the conference. However, the organisers have refuted claims that political groups within the opposition were excluded.
Norton noted too that the Energy Conference is being held at a time when allegations of corruption against Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo. Jagdeo has been accused of taking bribes from Chinese Investors through a middle man to facilitate large-scale contracts, however, he has denied the allegations.
“He has attacked opposition MPs and suggested that there is a US government conspiracy to undermine China’s influence in Guyana, rather than being truthful and come to hobnob with world leaders, diplomats and other VIPS in a grand show of pretense that all is normal in Guyana,” Norton contended.
He contended that Guyanese remain deeply troubled by the allegations against the Vice President.
“The fact that VP Jagdeo has historically been associated with allegations of high levels of corruption in previous PPP Governments does not help his cause. The people’s trust in the integrity of Bharrat Jagdeo which was always in question and continues to hang by a thread — be unsalvageable should these allegations prove to contain even a modicum of truth. In such circumstances — and given the many temptations presented by his reach and power in the government — a call for his removal is in order,” he said.
The PNCR Leader insisted that there must be a police investigation into the very serious allegation. “We repeat that call here. We challenge the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to investigate Bharrat Jagdeo,” he urged while noting that the Guyana Police Force must not be seen as powerless.
“Guyanese are fully aware that these allegations of high corruption come at a time when large (and half-baked) infrastructure projects are being hatched as the PPP pillages the oil fund with plans to do likewise in the coming years. The PNCR recommits itself to holding the PPP accountable,” he added.
Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley along with the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; and the President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi are expected to headline the conference together with President Irfaan Ali, who will deliver the keynote address.
Senior functionaries and experts from major oil and gas companies, local, regional and international government officials, procurement personnel and academia are expected to form part of the more than 500 delegates as the International Energy Conference opens under the theme “Charting a Sustainable Energy Future.”