“No evidential basis” for cash payouts

President David Granger

– President Granger

PRESIDENT David Granger on Thursday said there is “no evidential basis” for the suggested cash payout to households from the expected oil and gas revenues.
Economist, Dr. Clive Thomas speaking at a recent forum said the government should consider annual cash transfers of $1Million (US$5000) to poor households.
However, President Granger said he has not received a formal proposal from Dr. Thomas in this regard. “I have not considered that proposal, it is outside of the recommendations of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, the Natural Resources Fund and I don’t know that there is a precedent for it.”
The Head of State reminded of the quintet of ministers and the newly appointed Head of the Department of Energy, Dr. Mark Bynoe, are advising him on matters related to the sector.

On Wednesday, during the 96th Sitting of the National Assembly, Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan laid the Government’s ‘Green’ paper on the Natural Resources Fund for consideration by the House. It is expected that before the year ends, legislation will be enacted that will see the prudent management of the petroleum resources. The ‘Green’ paper presents preliminary proposals which are expected to stimulate discussions. It also details specific issues and possible courses of action in terms of policy and legislation. It also elaborates on the necessity of the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Jordan later told reporters that he embraced the public debate on direct cash transfers to citizens after Guyana begins oil production in March 2020.
Jordan said if such an approach were to be adopted, then extreme caution must be employed, a view shared by Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman.

He said over the years, there have been such transfers which targeted education. He pointed to the national school-feeding programmes and the uniform vouchers that students in the public school system receive. “I must admit to you, I would have a difficulty if Cabinet were to agree to it and in the implementation it wasn’t properly structured,” said the finance minister, who noted that rather than giving citizens US$5000 as hypothetically suggested by economist, Professor Clive Thomas last Sunday in Buxton, issues within critical sectors should be examined.
“Why not look at issues such as education, health, youth programmes, small businesses …teaching a man to fish and then he could do it for a lifetime, rather than giving him a fish when he could only feed himself for a short while,” Jordan suggested, while noting that the matter has not yet reached the level of Cabinet.

Trotman for his part said too that the public discourse on the subject is timely, as Guyana has within its reserves more than 4B barrels of oil equivalent. “For 50 years Guyanese have been told about their potential and what they are entitled to, we have seen that potential around us. This and future governments have a duty to spread oil wealth in a responsible way to as many Guyanese as possible. The AFC supports any initiative that spreads the wealth transparently and equally not just for some, but to ensure that every citizen in all 10 regions get an equal say in how this money is spent and they get a share of it,” Trotman said, noting that he would make such a representation to cabinet.