Congratulations to the government on the passage of the long overdue Local Content and NRF bills. I am intrigued by plans for the Natural Resources Fund Board. I believe that the composition of the NRF Board should reflect the most diverse, best, brightest and experienced Guyanese minds that we can find. The government has committed to us that the members of the Board will be non-political. This will make the task of identification and selection very much harder, as most of our best and brightest have already been touched by the very broad political brush as party members, or are conflicted by working for political parties. I have one major fear that if realised will lead to more public protests. I fear that they will all be economists of a certain narrow political persuasion, ethnicity and background which is the last thing we need as it will undermine trust, confidence and credibility. This need not be the case. Hopefully, the government can find non-political board members from outside of the expected ethnic and politically-connected makeup of the Board. Therefore, I wish to make a comment about the Chairman and humbly offer two suggestions. Firstly, in my view, the Chairman of the Board should be Dr. Ashni Singh, who is an outstanding choice, but the political taint is clearly an issue to consider. He fits all except the non-political criteria, but he is essentially a technocrat who is performing a function similar to that of managing the funds that will be overseen by the NRF Board. I humbly ask the government to consider its criteria for Chairman carefully, as to me Dr. Ashni Singh is the perfect person to be the first Chair. Dr. Singh is very well known so I need not say more. If we cannot have Dr. Singh as Chair we need to find a suitable Guyanese with similar expertise. Secondly, and thinking broadly, my two suggestions are candidates who can add serious intellectual, professional experience, competency, credibility and most importantly, major diversity to the NRF Board. They are Dr. David Pollard and Dr. Toussant Boyce.
I know Dr. David Pollard fairly well. He is richly educated, brilliant and well known locally as a highly rated professional. David has a PhD in theoretical physics but do not let that mislead you into thinking that he is not an expert in international finance and investments. He is versatile and competent on many issues related to investing and financial management. He is a financial advisor and the director of a fund who has worked with major investment banks across the worlds. Most importantly, his expertise is broad at a high level and relevant to Guyana and the NRF. His recent presentations and publications on the oil industry, and the NRF Bill, demonstrate his knowledge of the NRF and what it will take to move forward. David’s only drawback may be that he served as an Ambassador but that is not necessarily political to disqualify him from being on the NRF Board. Dr. Toussant Boyce is the most well-rounded and interesting of my three suggestions. I did not know about him until recently when he was speaking at a conference and a legal colleague drew to my attention to the fact that he is Guyanese. She said that he is one of the youngest, most brilliant, humble and well-rounded and respected professional talents that Guyana has ever produced. I did some research and I agree wholeheartedly. He graduated at the top of his classes at many institutions including UG, UWI, Cambridge and Harvard. He has solid expertise in law, banking, international finance, accountability, anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and governance. These are areas Guyana needs to manage well. I could not find information that associated him with any political organisation, nor any public service other than at the regional public service level at CDB where he currently heads their governance, integrity and accountability office. His masters and PhD from Cambridge and Harvard are in finance, commercial law, financial regulation and international finance. He has worked in local private sector in law and banking, regional investment and development banking, and with global law firms here, in the US, before returning to serve in the Caribbean. He is well respected and doesn’t appear to have any taint from politics nor conflicts from the oil industry. His only major drawback may be that as an apolitical professional he is not politically connected locally in Guyana, which is also a very good thing for the NRF.
Editor, to help manage Guyana’s oil future, we need to find more highly educated, expert and well-rounded talents with practical experience. I have offered my three suggestions. I know that many other names will be produced and examined publicly as they should. I have a few other names in mind, but alas, they are all politically tainted or just anti-government. In my humble view, the three persons I have named above have precisely the kind of skillset needed for a well-respected, intellectually sound, diverse, broad, trustworthy, competent and credible NRF Board that will help to fund the future development of Guyana. We do not need any more drama over any future NRF appointments. The bills have passed, the government has a mandate and we all should help the government to choose wisely.
Asad Ally, CPA