SAN JUAN – Guyana’s government announced on Wednesday that it will ask the National Assembly to approve the creation of a sovereign wealth fund linked to the discovery of oil in coastal waters of the disputed Essequibo region, which is claimed by neighboring Venezuela.
The bill will be presented in the House of Representatives next year and the government will also seek input from the public, Governance Minister Raphael Trotman said.
“Nationwide consultations will be held both before and during the process of finalizing this policy through necessary legislation,” he said.
Trotman said that while the impetus for the establishment of the fund comes from the oil find, government revenues from the exploitation of gold, diamonds, bauxite and other commodities would also be deposited in the fund.
“Earnings from all of our natural resources will be housed within resource wealth management funds to the benefit of all Guyanese” in the form of spending on infrastructure and the creation of a rainy- day reserve, among other initiatives, he said.
Essequibo is a resource-rich area of 167,839 sq. kilometers (64,800 sq. miles).
The long-simmering territorial dispute took on new urgency on May 20, when a subsidiary of U.S.-based ExxonMobil announced the discovery of significant oil reserves in the waters off Essequibo.
A week later, President Nicolas Maduro issued a decree asserting Venezuela’s sovereignty over those waters.