National Assets1712 13 Jun, 2012
Mr. Greenidge: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I rise to address this issue of National Assets standing in my name and I am just trying to get my documents together. Mr. Speaker, you will be aware that the issues we face in relation to development turns very critically, upon the management of our resources. The resources of Guyana are quite extensive, we like to tell the world, and yet in reality the economic performance that we have experienced over the last 15 years have been less than sterling; it is not matched by the resources that we are so proud to boast of. [Ms. Shadick: Why did you not go back to 1990?]
Mr. Speaker, I reconfirm my comment, that is, that the economic experience over the last fifty years does not match the quality or quantity of resources that the country has. It is unfortunate that our colleagues, on the other side, find it inconvenient to admit to what is obvious to the rest of the world.
The problem of the management of the national assets is what we are seeking to address here. In relation to these national assets, the request is that…The assets of land, properties and financial resources are the subject of much debate outside of this House. Most recently, we would have seen in the case of National Industrial & Commercial Investment Ltd. (NICIL), for example, the debate first triggered by the actions, presumably, taken on the basis of the advice of the distinguished Attorney General, in the courts. The Member asked about the debates. That is where it started. It went to a different level during the course of the 2011 National and Regional Elections, to the point where we found ourselves with a public servant, paid from the public purse, attacking Members of Parliament, in public, ostensibly with attempts to refute what was, obviously, a set of political statements, rather than attempting to answer the questions that were being raised about the disposal of financial assets and financial resources.
The National Assembly is, in this motion, being asked… Since there is so much controversy over what volume of resources is available, what volume of resources was made available to NICIL and what it did with those resources, we are, in this motion, calling upon the Government to have the relevant Ministers report, in keeping with the law, on the disposal and sale, or otherwise, of a range of assets – these assets that are in our patrimony. Assets which the Government, in the form of the President as well as his identified Ministers, has an obligation to manage with a degree of transparency, without the order of corruption, and in the national interest. The debates out there suggest that this has not been happening.
We have been told, on a number of occasions, that estimates of the amounts of resources available to some of these entities, and NICIL, in particular, are not correct. We need not spend time in public debating whether the estimates are correct or not. What the Government has an obligation to do is to bring to this House the resources in question. Of the lands available to the Government and for which it has disposed of, we would like to know the criteria informing the disposal of those assets; the basis upon which they were priced – whether it be Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) shares or whether it be land in which the Government provided itself with resources when, in fact, those resources were meant to be managed on behalf of the people.
We are asking, specifically, in the first resolved clause that between specific dates, that is, 9th October and 31st December, of last year, and between 1st January, 2000 and 9th December, of last year, that the relevant Ministers bring to the House reports on all of the assets in question which have been disposed of.
Because of the degree of acrimony, the unsatisfactory explanations given by an official who, when the election was completed, announced to the public that he was resigning and going out of the country...When he discovered that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) had won the presidency, he suddenly found it difficult to leave his seat and is being paid, apparently, as a consultant, but still is carrying on the operations of the most important agency which controls the disposal of national assets.
The volume of resources directed to NICIL and the extent to which it has disposed of those resources really has no parallel in our recent history. [Mr. Neendkumar: You set up NICIL]. It is a very significant proportion of the national resources and, therefore, what we are asking…If colleagues wish, I am happy to explain the circumstances under which NICIL was established. So I will come back to that in a minute.
Let me, if I may, Mr. Speaker, explain what it is that we are seeking. In the light of the failure of NICIL to adhere to the obligations that are associated with the special status, it has been given as an agency managing extra budgetary funds, we call upon the House for arrangements to be made for an independent financial audit of the operations of this National Industrial Commercial Investment Limited, as well as the Privatisation Unit.
Let me just make one point clear, Mr. Speaker, if I may. Notwithstanding what the Government has been saying, and its – I do not know whether he is self-appointed - other spokesman, Mr. Brassington, has been saying, the reports that NICIL should have been providing to this House have not been provided. The last report laid in this House was in 2006, and that was only recently laid. It was laid in 2006; it is now 2012 and, in between whiles, a considerable volume of resources has been passed to NICIL and, apparently, passed out of NICIL. Some of those resources have been passed to Members even on the other side of this House. What we are saying is to let the Ministers, who are responsible, indicate what has actually been done with the resources at their disposal - land, financial resources, and other resources which NICIL controls.
The Government is responsible for the disposal of those assets and we are asking, whether they were disposed of by sale, or otherwise, that they specifically be handled by NICIL. I am making two points just to make it clear. The overall assets of land, properties, and so forth, pertaining to residential, mining concessions, have to be reported on. That is at the general level. The stock of assets, we need a report on for the periods that have been stated. For those specifically handled by NICIL, we would like, also, in addition to a special audit, a detailed report on the sale, or otherwise, of the assets entrusted to it and the Privatisation Unit, as well as the terms under which they were disposed of and the criteria that they used.
I wish to remind the House that the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) specifically obliges NICIL to provide biannual reports and annual audited accounts. What reports have been provided, as far as I am aware, are consolidated reports. The individual entity has not been exempted from providing its report, notwithstanding the fact that NICIL, as whole, must report. So whether it is Guyana Oil Company (GUYOIL) or Guyana National Printers Limited (GNPL) or any of the others, it is obliged to report, and NICIL and the Privatisation Unit are also obliged to report, and the Minister of Finance is, in that case, is the one who is supposed to lay the reports, as he has done with the ones that are already laid to in the House. It is also in the case that if, indeed, the head of NICIL has resigned, then I think that we should require from the Minister, given the controversy, a handing over report so that we will know exactly what he was doing with the resources and the criteria that were used.
May I go on to say that in addition to NICIL, there are a number of resources emanating from the exercise of the powers of the Minister of Finance, and some of his colleagues, and these pertain to fiscal concessions. I have in my own presentations, in the past, drawn attention to what appeared to be an extensive number of entities operating, having brought in, under arrangement that are not always clear, whether it is vehicles, equipment, and so forth, on a duty-free basis. The World Bank and others, in working with the Government of Guyana on the improvement to the financial management, had called upon the Government to reduce the number of fiscal concessions, the extent and the scope of fiscal concessions, that it had been exercising. It appears that having done that initially, it has gone back to the old situation of extensive fiscal concessions. But, in any case, even if it has not done so, the criteria – the basis upon which these concessions are granted – need to be set out for us in writing so that we can know who and upon the basis of which they have been granted.
I urge that this matter is taken seriously, because the management of the fiscal system cannot remain defensible if it turns upon friendships and whims and fancies, rather than on transparent and defensible criteria. [Mr. Ganga Persaud: Are you drawing on experience?] Yes. I am drawing on experience. I have had experience in Guyana and elsewhere. I am happy to bring that for your benefit. What I am saying is that the fiscal concessions and the basis on which they are granted should also be reported on.
The other element of the motion pertains to the agreements that have been signed with international agencies and the private sector. I am speaking here of the various agreements, mining agreements and otherwise. Before my colleagues jump in to misrepresent what has been said, let me just confirm that I am speaking of mining agreements involving the award of state lands and fiscal concessions which would have been signed by the Government since 2001.
These are the list of actions that we call upon the Government to address and to provide us with it in good time, so that we, as a House, can arrive at a reasoned position regarding the disposal of the assets for which the Government and its agencies have been given charge.
I would like to commend these actions to the House and invite my colleagues to react.
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