By Staff Reporter -February 10, 2020
DIRECTOR of India’s Goa Foundation, Rahul Basu has proposed a cash transfer system of Guyana’s oil wealth, which he says will ensure that the country’s inherited wealth remains in the hands of its people.
It forms a part of the Foundation’s Principles of Mineral Extraction, which can be divided into five parts.
He made the pitch recently at a public lecture on oil-and-gas management hosted by Policy Forum Guyana at the Cara Lodge.
Goa is a State on the southwestern coast of India, and the Goa Foundation is the best known of Goa’s environmental action groups, which today holds influence with the judiciary, government and the general public.
The first two principles that were highlighted reminds one that the State is a trustee for a country’s minerals which belong to the people, and that future generations must inherit the minerals or its full value.
Meanwhile, the final three state that any loss from mining is irrecoverable, and therefore there must be no loss; the value of these minerals must be saved in a Future Generation Fund, the income of which must be distributed equally to all as a right of ownership.
Basu explained that the most important part of the principles is the last, which speaks to the distribution of income from the Fund equally to all as a Citizen Dividend.
“It is something that the people have to demand; it is your right, and your duty to demand it. And until you exercise that right and understand the duty, it’s not going to happen,” he said.
Basu said that is it unfortunate that many citizens in many countries have forgotten that they are the owners and custodians of their country’s minerals, and their forgetting allows for those resources to be exploited by others.
However, he explained that a Citizen Dividend would not see cash payments to households, which would encourage the fragmentation of families, but to individuals through a system decided upon by the government.
He also explained that there should be no condition placed on the Citizen Dividend, as it is a right to each person, and it matters not if they are poor or rich.
“The dividend is to be paid in cash to each person individually. So the father gets the money, the mother gets the money, and the child’s account will be controlled by the [guardian]. That is the vision,” he said, adding:
“Of course, a 5 to 10 per cent will drink and waste it, but you have to trust your people; give them leniency… This is not something which is being given to you; this is yours.”
When it comes to where the government would get its source of funding, Basu said that this must come from taxes, which can be raised, as citizens will be in a better position to pay it.
Basu admitted that no country in the world has fully achieved the five-principle method, but some countries have achieved some parts partially.
For example, he said that only Botswana and Norway have come close to zero loss from mining, and while Alaska is a prime example of the Citizen Dividend, the US state only puts 20 per cent of the money into the Fund.
Nonetheless, he urged, “Whoever does this first will get pilgrimages from around the world. People will come to understand how this happened, and anywhere else in the world, if one country or one place does this, everybody else will say, ‘Why can’t we?’”