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Thursday, January 21, 2021

‘Listen to the voices of wisdom and not just multinational agencies’ – fmr Natural Resources Minister

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-Constitutional reform vital to independence of oversight of oil and gas revenues

Former Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud cautioned that the country must not be dependent only on multinational agencies for advice but listen to the voices of wisdom from the ordinary citizens; the true owners of the resource.

Persaud nevertheless commended the current administration for going the way of a Green Paper on managing future petroleum revenues and a Sovereign Wealth Fund, rather than a white paper, the former of which allows for broader discourse and consultation. “Hopefully, the multiplicity of views will influence policy, legislation and Executive action on the matters contained therein,” he said in a comment posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday.

Persaud believes that if there is to be independence of oversight constitutional reform is a must. “The role of a specific ministry in managing these resources cannot be miniaturized as our existing Constitution nor relevant financial laws do not allow otherwise. We cannot wish for a different arrangement but still operate in an infected, ill-fated constitutional governance framework. Simply put, there cannot be accountability without responsibility. Or in layman’s terms; I cannot be held accountable for something I have no responsibility for. If we want Independence of oversight or management of the oil revenues, there is no shortcut: go change the outdated, ill-suited constitutional national governance framework,” he said.

The former minister stressed that there must be emphasis placed on building local capacity for both upstream and downstream and noted that local content is the missing link in the Green Paper. “The proposed Natural Resources Fund (NRF) needs to have the flexibility to invest, directly in initiatives to support local/national content capacity building,” he said.

Persaud said the oil companies pay lip service to local content and until the Government and primary actors be strategic and have a common vision, “we will only be circling the wagon on the subject of local content.”

On the Natural Resources Fund Bill, Persaud called for it to be sent to a Special Select Committee of the National Assembly to allow for wider public input. “Importantly, the NRF Bill, when drafted, should be tabled and sent immediately to a special select committee of the National Assembly to allow for wider public input.” Further, he called for there to be a national vision for 2030 for the country’s development, which he said will be critical for the success of the NRF and essential for the country’s long-term success in managing its oil wealth to support a diversified economy.

The former minister said that the effectiveness of the Green Paper proposals and others will also depend on the suite of accompanying legislation, including the Petroleum Commission Bill.

“The Green Paper gives us hope. But hope is never a policy nor a desired measure. A vision and desired set of policy action that [are] inclusive, decisive, relevant and smart are what will make us fully ready,” he said.

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