Worried about sovereign wealth fund management

first_imgDear Editor,Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, announced last December that the details of Guyana’s proposed Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) could be released to the public as early as the first quarter of 2018; and as we get closer to the date of disclosure, I am deeply concerned that the details will be poorly designed and badly managed if left in the hands of politicians and their ‘Pet Pigeons.’Although I love my country dearly, it is an undeniable fact that it is a dangerously corrupt nation. My biggest fear is that the political corruption that has plagued Guyana for decades since Independence will infect the SWF and turn it into the biggest corruption scandal in the history of Guyana and maybe the world.Friends and families, I am not being emotional or exaggerating. The proposed SWF will be a vast reservoir of oil revenue, and this will definitely fatten the eyes of every corrupt politician and official. Even those who are not yet corrupt will be exposed to enormous temptation. I wonder how many would be unable to resist. There is an old saying: “the real reason for locks on doors is not to keep thieves out, but to stop honest persons from becoming thieves”. We need to bear that saying in mind when setting up Guyana’s Sovereign Wealth Fund.As a businessman, I see several weaknesses when I look at what undermined these failed or failing SWFs across the world. That is why I urge my fellow citizens to join me in calling on the Government to depoliticize Guyana’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and take its design, implementation and monitoring out of the hands of politicians and put it in the hands of an independent body approved by the citizens of the nation, as well as international anti-corruption agencies. We have to put powerful transparency and accountability mechanisms in place to protect the SWF from being subject to wrongdoing and poor investments. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is urging Guyana to put systems in place to ensure that the fund is not abused. These are my suggestions:1. Members of the SWF Board must not be appointed directly by Government, because this usually results in political favouritism, incompetence, inefficiency and slack oversight. The Board must comprise competent, independent professionals drawn from civic society, or even accomplished professionals from Caricom or elsewhere, to ensure that it is professionally-managed by accountable officials and is managed according to transparent policies.The board can comprise representatives from the private sector; the Chamber of Commerce; an Indo-centric and Afro- centric voted leader; a member from the Inter Religious Organisation of Guyana; a leader of the Universal Peace Federation of Guyana; a representative of Transparency International, and Mr. Christopher Ram. Trust me, the level of accountability will be tremendous. But professional politicians will bawl “Is we time now!!”2. The roles and responsibilities of the Board must be clearly defined and made public.3. There must be clear rules governing domestic/external investment, and these must be made public. Specifically, the Sovereign Wealth Fund must be protected from abuse by diverting funds to currency stabilization, or to do damage control for bad public spending or any political reason.4. There must be a national public information and civic education campaign, so ordinary citizens can understand objectives, checks and balances, and benefits of the SWF.5. There must be clear and harsh penalties for wrongdoing, and a suitable time frame for prosecution must be clearly defined. For example: life imprisonment or death for pilfering with the fund.6. The SWF Board must be made accountable to Parliament, auditors and the media, and the details of this accountability must be clearly defined and made public.I am making these suggestions now because I am worried about Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s implication at a press conference that the Government’s preliminary legislation is being patterned on Uganda’s legislation. Uganda is thought of as a corrupt nation by Transparency International (www.transparency.org). To me, Guyana’s SWF cannot succeed without public confidence, and this will not be achieved by modelling it on the SWF of a corrupt nation. That is not the way to go. Our SWF can help generate long-term economic benefits, but it must be well-planned and well-managed.I hope my letter makes other citizens think about what important conditions they would like to see in the SWF in order to produce the intended results. I know politicians as career ones, and dishonest public officials will not appreciate my views and look to hurt me economically or by hiring professional bloggers to defame me, as was done when I led the original protests against VAT on education, which aroused others and was successful, albeit slowly. Parents and students benefit today.People of Guyana, we hire political leaders. They are our servants and are paid handsomely; let them fulfil our needs and our wishes as the people. On the other hand, I encourage this Government which took the seat of power recently after 23 years: Cherish the victory!!! Serve the people well!! Do not think that the people will ever be gullible to politicians ever again (maybe a few). So create history, consult your people at all levels without political or racial rhetoric, and lead as a well-defined Government that we as Guyanese can honour and be proud of for many, many decades.As a patriot, I only want what is for the good of Guyana and for all Guyanese. To those in political control and their henchmen, The Lord my God is my Watcher………Karma!!!!!Sincerely,Roshan Khan Snr,National Patriotlast_img

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