Guyana: The Debate over the Distribution of Oil and Gas Wealth heats Up

  • Cash handouts from oil wealth will spark ridiculous election campaigns – Nigel Hughes
  • Prof Clive Thomas advocates Money (e.g $5000 US/yr) for each Household 

 Nigel Hughes

Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes is completely against the suggestion by some that a portion of the nation’s oil wealth should be set aside to make direct cash handouts to every household.

At the recently held Eusi Kwayana Emancipation Symposium which took place on Sunday at Friendship Primary School, Hughes said that such a proposal would lead to ridiculous election campaigns which would distort, completely, the need to focus on true development of the state and its people.    

“My fear is that when we talk about giving people cash, we are opening the doors to politicians jumping up and saying I will be able to give you more cash than the next, and you end up with a ridiculous election campaign of people being irresponsible about development, because it becomes a competition of who can give more,” Hughes asserted.

He stressed, “We are living in a different social era, with different commitments and views on development.”

Hughes’ comments would come on the heels of statements made by Professor Clive Thomas, who is a staunch advocate of cash transfers being made to every household.

At the said event, the economist suggested that almost every household should get US$5000 per year.
Professor Thomas said, “I believe that some portion of the net cash flow from oil should be dedicated to giving cash transfers to every single household in this country. Whether it be US$5000 per year or whatever it works out at, we can do the calculations, but there must be a mechanism which dictates that every single household and by extension, every single person would see the benefit of oil and gas in terms of a cheque or cash…I believe that there can be no better spender of resources that the person themselves. No one can tell you how to better spend money on what you need than yourself…”

Dr. Thomas said he is afraid that the national debate is moving “further and further away from this reality.” He noted that some critics have often quoted the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which said that the idea is simply a waste of resources. But he does not agree with this.
Professor Thomas said that indeed, some people can point to many examples where this mechanism has failed. He noted, however, that there are instances where this can also work.
“One friend told me it is done in Alaska and it is not failing,” he said.

Professor Clive Thomas

Professor Thomas acknowledged that there is a risk that such a mechanism can fail; that the politicians can steal the money. But he stressed that there is no certainty with that. He insisted that systems can be put in place to ensure that it works for the people.

“Otherwise, you know who is going to get it? The same middle class that is running the industry today and saying that it is not really going to…” Dr. Thomas concluded that the poor and powerless must stand up for their interest.

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  • michael hawkins  On 08/08/2018 at 3:53 am

    Spend it wisely it may not last forever. Keep an eye on those at the top, and make every penny accountable for . M H

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