Petroleum Commission BoardBy Samuel SukhnandanBased on recommendations from several international agencies, Government is now considering having more members of the Opposition and civil society sit on the Board of the Petroleum Commission, which will have general oversight of the local oil and gas sector.Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman has said this development would help to make the Commission larger and more inclusive. Agencies such as The Commonwealth, International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American DevelopmentOpposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoBank (IDB) helped in drafting the proposed legislation.At present, the draft Bill provides for only seven persons from civil society, academia and the Parliamentary Opposition to form part of the Commission’s Board; but recommendations have been made to have the numbers increased to possibly three from each of the abovenamed interest groups.The draft legislation is now before the Special Select Committee of the Parliament, and Trotman has said he would meet with the committee to discuss the possible increase in sitting board members. The next step would be to take the proposed amendments to Cabinet for approval.He said, “I anticipate that Cabinet will say, ‘Yes’. I can then work out a process with the Clerk of the National Assembly (Sherlock Isaac) on how to either withdraw what is in Parliament or add amendments to it. The Clerk will advise how we proceed with that.”Commentator and Attorney-at-Law Ralph Ramkarran was the first to suggest that the number of persons sitting on the Commission should be increased. Ramkarran feels that 12 members are not enough, and there should instead be 15 members, including one more each from civil society and the Opposition. He told an oil seminar last year, “…to give them a little more weight…one extra gives more voice to the people”.Addressing another concern raised about the draft bill, Minister Trotman said it is not the Government’s intention to exercise excessive power over the Commission. He explained that just as in the case of other agencies, like the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), the Minister will have all-encompassing powers to make orders. However, in the case of this sector, Trotman said, Government would consider a number of suggestions for more devolution of ministerial powers.He said, “I have no desire to hold power…because petroleum is seen both as a national matter and, of course, could be a potentially divisive one… There is no desire of Government to hold or to hog the resources, and so anything that makes it a national asset…”The Parliamentary Opposition has made known its general disapproval of the Bill, which was laid in the National Assembly by the Minister in mid-last year. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has claimed that the bill in its current form is both “oily” and “slick”, and rather than a national Commission being created, it appears to be more like a “Trotman Commission”. According to Jagdeo, the bill gives the minister too much power.Section 8 of the Bill details that the Minister is allowed not only to provide policy guidance, but to also give direction to the Commission regarding a number of other issues. These include the size of the establishment, the employment of staff, and the terms and conditions of employment; the provision of equipment and use of funds; reorganization, or such works of development as to involve a substantial outlay on capital account; training, education and research; among others.The Bill makes provision for the establishment of a Petroleum Commission to serve as a regulatory agency for Guyana’s oil and gas industry. The establishment of a new regulatory agency will see the responsibility taken from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).The draft legislation is currently before a bi-partisan select committee for further consideration, before it goes back to the National Assembly for approval.