Noting that no proposal for a cash payout to be made to households from oil revenue has reached his desk, President David Granger yesterday said that he is yet to see the evidential basis to support such a suggestion.
“Whether it be US$5000 per year or whatever it works out at, we can put the figure together – there must be a mechanism in place to ensure every single household and by extension every single person, sees the benefits of oil and gas in terms of cash or cheque received in their accounts,” economist Dr Clive Thomas said on Sunday at an event organized by the Buxton First of August Movement.
Thomas’ statements have seen mixed reactions with some observers saying that the figure is too small and others foreseeing major political implications if the proposal is accepted by government.
Granger was asked shortly after swearing in the members of the Police Service Commission whether he was going to consider Thomas’ proposal.
He responded by saying that he has not taken such a proposal into consideration.
“No, I don’t know where the proposal came from but it hasn’t been formally submitted to me”, he said before reminding that he has identified a quintet of ministers to advise him on the oil and gas sector and has appointed a Director of the Department of Energy.
“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. So, I don’t know the evidential basis for making such a proposal and it is not part of the proposal for the Sovereign Wealth Fund,” he said.
While addressing those gathered at the Friendship, East Coast Demerara Primary School, Thomas said, “I believe that some portion of the net cash flow from oil should be dedicated and be given as cash transfers to every single household in this country….”
He had contended that regardless of what multilateral agencies may advise, Guyanese must pressure the government to tap monetary rewards from oil revenues if this country wants to have true equity and see a real lowering of poverty. He made it clear that he does not see a disbursement of cash transfers to the populace as a waste of money.
Thomas, attorney Nigel Hughes and Maricia Charles, who appeared on behalf of Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, had gathered to speak on the theme, ‘The Coming Oil and Gas Economy: Prospects for Empowering the Poor and Revitalizing the Village Economy.’
Thomas gave his overview of the sector but focused primarily on direct cash distributions, which he called on his party, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), to support and lobby for.
“I believe there can be no better spender of resources a person wants than they themselves- nobody can tell you how to spend money better than you can yourself. As an expression to that person, I believe there must be developed a cash transfer programme of some significance that makes sure that when all is said and done, out of the national pie a certain permitted amount of resources are transferred to the masses. That is an absolute minimum of what I was saying, the national debate is removing that further and further from reality,” he had said.
Thomas posited that his optimism was founded on facts he would have gathered from public documents, research data and his experience not only as an economist but as a citizen of this country, where he would have seen his mother run her household on a tight but prudent budget.
It is in this vein that he believes that if citizens are given cash payouts, that they would not squander it or develop a mentality of dependence or self- entitlement.
Hughes, who is the local representative for ExxonMobil’s partner Hess Corporation, did not agree with Thomas and had said that such a move in Guyana could quickly turn political, with each party raising the stakes in campaign promises in hopes of soliciting votes.
“My fear is that if we start to talk about giving people cash, we are opening the doors to politicians to jump up and say, ‘ I gon give you more cash than the next one’ and we end up with a ridiculous campaign of people being irresponsible about development because it becomes a competition on who can give more. In the previous administration, there used to be a lot of concerts with the hope of placating parts of our society—that is going to happen at a higher level. I fully accept that in the generation that my mother and grandparents came from, that they had a different perspective on life,” he had added.