Guyana moves closer to joining extractive industries transparency pact

Guyana yesterday moved a step closer to joining the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), hosting its first technical working group meeting with stakeholders on the globally recognised governance framework for the natural resources sector that it had committed to joining several years ago.

“We have completed the first two steps in this process with the commitment of government, and the selection of the high level and working level focal points being myself as Minister of Governance, and Ms Tamara Khan, Governance Officer at the DGNRE. The third step we begin with [yesterday’s] meeting: the establishment of a Multi-Stakeholder Group which will support the final step of the creation of an agreed work plan in keeping with reporting and validation deadlines of the EITI Board,” Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman said at the meeting at the Cara Lodge.

“The first round of capacity building required to get the group through this latter step before an application can be submitted, is likely to come in January 2016 when our sister Caricom country Trinidad and Tobago’s EITI and the EITI Secretariat themselves conduct various working sessions for this group which we are initiating today,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Ministry of the Presidency.

Joining the EITI was one of the conditions of the forest deal with Norway and because of the delay in moving towards membership, Guyana lost some funds. The need for the EITI has become even more critical in the backdrop of the reported discovery of oil offshore.

The statement yesterday reported that Trotman said that Guyana’s immediate work is to fulfil the mandates of the application process to become an EITI Candidate.

The minister recalled that in 2013, Guyana´s then government joined the ranks of those states pledging their commitment to implementation. In 2015, the new administration, through the Department of Governance, Natural Resources and the Environment, recommitted to this process recognising that normal channels of public accountability are often lacking in resource-dependent countries because the government has an autonomous source of revenue.

“This recommitment is the demonstration of a national declaration to good governance that embraces reform of current ways of operation, and anti- corruption compliance,” the statement said.

“It is recognised as the definitive structure for transparency when it comes to the handling of natural resources. The business of the EITI is to strengthen public and private systems which touch and concerns a nation’s extractive industries and the wealth emanating therein. This strengthening of systems seeks to create transparency, accountability, public involvement in the debate and ultimately better involvement of the nation’s wealth,” Trotman was quoted as saying.

These ideals, he said, are to be achieved within a governance context of working together; government, civil society and industry combine efforts to realize the best of what is intended for democratic states, in particular, improved levels of development for their citizens.

“The EITI constructs, facilitates and guides this process of collaborative governance and resource management, by working with the state and the multi-stakeholder group to achieve something we may boldly call transformative,” Trotman said.

Pointing out the importance of the initiative in Guyana, he said that government can benefit from following an internationally recognized transparency standard that demonstrates commitment to reform and anti-corruption, and leads to improvements to the tax collection process and enhanced trust and stability in a volatile sector.

He also noted that companies will benefit from a level playing field in which all companies are required to disclose the same information.

“They also benefit from an improved and more stable investment climate in which they can better engage with citizens and civil society. Citizens and civil society benefit from receiving reliable information about the sector and a multi-stakeholder platform where they can better hold the government and companies to account. Energy security is enhanced by a more transparent and level playing field. This increased stability encourages long-term investment in production – and thus improves the reliability of supply,” he asserted.

The statement said that head of the Guyana Human Rights Association Mike McCormack, who has been playing an instrumental part in the launch of the initiative, said that getting key stakeholders and civil society involved, was of paramount importance to the success of the initiative.

The statement said that to this end, the department is looking at having five representatives from the government side, five representatives from the industry and seven representatives from civil society. Persons identified as the interim civic team on the EITI are Larry Carryl, Dr Mellissa Ifill, Gomin Camacho, McCormack, Jocelyn Dow, Paul Atkinson, Curtis Bernard and Sharon Atkinson who is an alternate for Paul Atkinson.

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