Authorities in Guyana said on Monday no revenue from the country’s growing Natural Resources Fund (NRF) account will be used for an emergency budget set to be presented this week.
In December 2019, Guyana began producing oil at the ExxonMobil-operated Stabroek Block. As a result of payments received from oil sales and royalty receipts, the NRF which is held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, now has close to US$150 million.
“On the Natural Resources Fund… none of it will be used for the emergency budget but as we promised in the PPP Manifesto, we will move ahead to address that Natural Resources Fund to either repeal it or amend it and along with doing that we will strengthen the transparency provisions,” Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo told reporters. “…not only the budgetary provisions for the use of the resources but also a promise that we made of criminalizing non-disclosure. We will pursue that as soon as the budget is out.”
President Irfaan Ali acknowledged too on Monday that the country has needs given that it is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic but would not at this time tap into the oil funds. He said the government has to make a number of investments now to create opportunities for the future that will require the government accessing as much resources as it can.
“But important too is also the issue of transparency and accountability and ensuring that systems are in place before we utilize any resources to make sure that our country and our people can understand that it is done in an open and transparent way and that there is no secrecy behind the use of any resources,” President Ali said.
He further added that the government is building up the framework, the institutions, the guidelines and rules necessary to ensure transparency in the oil and gas sector. “We [must] get the Petroleum Commission in place. We are putting in place the advisory body on local content. We have to get the body to perform the review [of the Payara project]. These are the things we are putting in place.”
During a press event in August, Mr. Jagdeo had spoken of the “overwhelming dominance” of the influence of the Minister of Finance on the sector and the use of the funds as the reason that the government was seeking to make changes to the NRF legislation.