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Sovereign Wealth FundChartered Accountant Christopher Ram has raised concerns over Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s position as a spender and saver of Guyana’s wealth. He noted that under the previous administration, the very matter would have drawn the attention of the then serving Opposition.Ram raised his concerns at an Energy Forum held last week at Duke Lodge. He said, “I wonder whether they (the Government) would have liked the same mechanism that they are setting out here if another Government — let’s not call the name of that other Government — if another Government was in place? Would we want a situation where a minister who is responsible for spending is also the minister responsible for saving and generating revenue and protecting those revenues?”The accountant said he is confident the administration would have rebutted this, thus he questioned the Government’s recommendation to have Jordan spearhead the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).In a subsequent interview with this publication on Monday, Ram sought to point out the need for transparency in handling of the Sovereign Wealth Fund. He recommended the SWF be entirely isolated from the “spending ministry,” as it could have an impact on everyone.Ram also pointed to the need for an article to be “entrenched” in the Constitution so that no one, including Ministers, would be able to unilaterally access funds in the SWF, as he described it as a generational fund for the future.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had earlier this year made a similar comment on the issue at one of his weekly press conferences.“I have said before that there should be no ministerial involvement in the Petroleum Commission; that the remaining oil blocks should be subject to a competitive auction or kept for future generations; and that we should complete the work on the Local Content framework. There have been no substantive moves in any of these directions. As I have said before, there is no clear management framework for the oil and gas sector,” Jagdeo had said.The Opposition Leader noted that on multiple occasions he has “urged that Government take cognisance of the Santiago Principles and a model similar to the principles on which the Norwegian model was developed. Establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund is only one element of a management framework for the oil and gas sector.Jagdeo has made it clear that, for various reasons, he disagrees with the Finance Minister being given control over the SWF. He zeroed in on Jordan’s silence on the signing bonus Government had received from the oil company.Meanwhile, the document sets out specific rules, including the Fiscal Rule, which caters for the development gaps that exist both in terms of human capital and physical infrastructure, and the need to accommodate development spending via the National Budget.To oversee these decisions, the Government has recommended the establishment of a Macroeconomic Committee which would consist of five members, including a representative of the Finance Minister.In terms of management of the SWF, a Sovereign Investment Committee would be responsible for advising the minister on the suitability of any investment being contemplated. A representative of the Finance Minister would also be on that committee.Further, the Green Paper states that the Bank of Guyana (BoG) will be the operational manager of the Fund. The Opposition Leader has already expressed deep concern about this proposal.Although the Government has catered for a representative from the Opposition to sit on the SWF committee, Jagdeo has already objected to this proposal, stating that politicians should not be included.A SWF is a state-owned investment fund that is made up of surpluses from official foreign currency operations, proceeds of privatisations, governmental transfer payments, fiscal surpluses and/or receipts resulting from resource exports.It has been articulated as an important mechanism for the oil and gas sector, and with ExxonMobil announcing that production would start in 2020, calls have been made by stakeholders and the political opposition for establishment of Guyana’s SWF to be swift.Guyana’s SWF Bill was drafted by the Commonwealth Secretariat with input from the Government, and was presented to the subject minister in December 2016.
…insists will select PM after elections…hours later calls him “my PM candidate”…embarrassed AFC says President’s statement “gratuitous”, “confusing”The tit for tat over the coalition’s Prime Ministerial position seems never-ending with the Alliance for Change claiming that their candidate is the substantive choice, while President David Granger claims the right to choose who would serve as his chief minister.President David GrangerPresident Granger, on Wednesday, told reporters that he is yet to decide on who his running mate is, although AFC announced Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan as the coalition’s Prime Ministerial candidate.“We have completed our review of the Cummingsburg Accord and I have started to campaign as you know from the 3rd January with Mr Khemraj Ramjattan who has been nominated by the Alliance For Change. As you said, it is not a constitutional requirement and I have not named a Prime Ministerial candidate but I know what I am going to do and my partners…I reserve the right to choose and nominate a Prime Minister. I will nominate all ministers including the Prime Minister, who is my chief minister after the elections,” Granger said in response to questions posed by reporters.Khemraj RamjattanHowever, hours later, at a party rally at Hopetown, Region Five, he referred to Ramjattan as his Prime Ministerial candidate. However, at the very rally, Ramjattan was not introduced as the Prime Ministerial candidate but rather simply as AFC leader.Concerns have been raised as to who is the APNU/AFC coalition’s PM candidate when it launched its campaign on January 3. At the launching, Ramjattan was introduced as Leader of the AFC and not the PM candidate as well as he was noticeably absent from the campaign posters.Meanwhile, when contacted, Ramjattan told Guyana Times that he has “no comment to make” and promptly disconnected the call.Meanwhile, AFC later released a statement where it reiterated its position that the President naming the Prime Ministerial candidate is in direct contradiction with provisions of the recently signed Revised Cummingsburg Accord, which embodies the agreements between the two political organisations.“The assertion that he will choose and nominate the Prime Minister after the election is gratuitous and confusing to our supporters and the wider electorate,” said the General Secretary of the AFC David Patterson.The statement added that AFC is well aware of the constitutional steps regarding appointments once the election results are known. However, the party said the process does not change the fundamental agreement that the AFC names the Prime Ministerial candidate and have named its leader, Ramjattan.“Consequently, the AFC is not confused by the comments, which we notice has subsequently been clarified by the General Secretary of APNU. The AFC said it hoped clarity has been brought to the issue, which was carefully considered and agreed during the Cummingsburg Accord discussions,” the statement added.The AFC and APNU have been at loggerhead over the selection of a Prime Ministerial candidate since the 2015 Cummingsburg Accord gave the PM slot to the AFC.However, the revised agreement was signed on December 24 but details surrounding the agreement have not been made public. The signing was done at State House, with President David Granger and Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, representing APNU as the party’s Chairman and General Secretary respectively.On the other hand, the smaller party was represented by Ramjattan (as AFC leader) and Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson (as AFC General Secretary).Ramjattan was elected at the AFC’s last National Executive Conference to be the PM candidate, effectively overthrowing current Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo.There has been much speculation in the public domain on whether the AFC would have been able to reclaim its previous Cummingsburg Accord concessions after its showing at Local Government Elections (LGE) last year. In the revised Accord, AFC seats have been downgraded to a mere 30 per cent of parliamentary seats while the APNU will get 70 per cent. In the previous agreement, AFC had 40 per cent while APNU had 60 per cent.