-T&T Op­po­si­tion Leader urges Guyana

Stabroek News - - REGIONAL NEWS - By Mi­randa La Rose

Trinidad and Tobago’s Op­po­si­tion Leader Kamla Per­sad-Bisses­sar on Thurs­day said that while Guyana should work to­wards en­sur­ing its “en­ergy se­cu­rity and en­ergy in­de­pen­dence,” its cit­i­zens should not aban­don the coun­try’s agri­cul­tural and other in­dus­trial prospects as the emerg­ing oil and gas sec­tor here is de­vel­oped.

“Do all of this leg­isla­tively. You need to have ro­bust leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect your coun­try’s pat­ri­mony. At the same time it must not be so filled up with end­less bu­reau­cracy and red tape that it will drive away po­ten­tial in­vestors. You need the in­vestors. They are com­ing with eq­uity. They have the money to mon­e­tise the re­sources,” Per­sad-Bisses­sar, the fea­ture speaker, told in­vi­tees at the Guyana Man­u­fac­tur­ing and Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion’s An­nual Awards at the Pe­ga­sus Ho­tel on Thurs­day evening.

Speak­ing on the topic “Man­ag­ing Oil and Gas Rev­enues - ex­pe­ri­ences and lessons learned from Trinidad and Tobago,” Per­sad-Bisses­sar said there are im­por­tant lessons that Guyana can learn from the twin is­land re­pub­lic’s ex­pe­ri­ences, but she was sad and em­bar­rassed to speak about man­ag­ing oil and gas rev­enues to a Guyanese au­di­ence “given what is hap­pen­ing in my own coun­try with our oil and gas sec­tor.”

The T&T govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to close the Petroleum Com­pany of Trinidad and Tobago (Petrotrin) and other de­ci­sions re­gard­ing the en­ergy sec­tor, she said, have gen­er­ated many ques­tions re­gard­ing the sup­ply of im­ported fu­els and ex­ported crude. Th­ese re­main unan­swered and they con­tinue to be of con­cern not only to the op­po­si­tion, she added, but to cit­i­zens, multi­na­tion­als and for­eign in­vestors.

As Leader of the Op­po­si­tion, she said, she re­mained firm in her po­si­tion that the de­ci­sion to close the Petrotrin re­fin­ery is not in the best in­ter­est of T&T. “This is ap­par­ent in the po­si­tion in which we now find our­selves—a high en­ergy con­sumer, made even more vul­ner­a­ble in a volatile sec­tor, tied to the va­garies of in­ter­na­tional su­per­pow­ers that will now con­trol our en­ergy re­quire­ments and out­puts.”

Not­ing the fact that Guyana’s high en­ergy prices have stymied growth of the man­u­fac­tur­ing and other sec­tors, she said, T&T will be­come de­pen­dent on im­port­ing en­ergy from out­side be­cause of the clo­sure of the re­fin­ery.

“While you will be shooting rock­ets up in the sky, we will be shooting down into the grave in terms of our econ­omy. That is what I see that lat­est de­ci­sion is about,” she said. “I am hope­ful and fairly cer­tain that this is one path that Guyana should never find it­self on. Guyana should, above all other things, es­pe­cially hav­ing been an im­porter of en­ergy for so long, work to­wards en­sur­ing its en­ergy se­cu­rity and en­ergy in­de­pen­dence. We have just sur­ren­dered our en­ergy se­cu­rity by de­ci­sions taken with re­spect to Petrotrin. I urge you never to do that. Th­ese are crit­i­cal to a coun­try’s suc­cess and in­deed fu­ture,” she added.

High­light­ing that T&T’s in­volve­ment in the petroleum sec­tor dates back more than 100 years and it was now in the dol­drums due to mis­man­age­ment, she said, “That is why I am sad­dened and deeply em­bar­rassed in try­ing to tell you what to do with your oil and gas sec­tor when in my own coun­try we have not been able to sus­tain it.”

‘Fully di­ver­si­fied’

Not­ing T&T’s fo­cus on the en­ergy sec­tor and fail­ure to di­ver­sify its econ­omy, she said, the par­a­digm shift from an agri­cul­ture econ­omy to an oil-based econ­omy and now into a gas-based econ­omy has had im­por­tant learn­ing curves.

Guyana, rated among some of the poor­est coun­tries in the world, she said, “is a great place to be be­cause there is nowhere else for you to go but up.”

Guyana is a global ex­plo­ration hotspot, she noted, with ExxonMo­bil’s first dis­cov­ery clas­si­fied as a gi­ant oil field and the other huge dis­cov­er­ies made since then.

With oil pro­duc­tion start­ing in 2020 and with a small pop­u­la­tion of less than one mil­lion peo­ple, she said, “You are liv­ing in a place that has tremen­dous po­ten­tial.” She quipped that she was telling her friends at the head ta­ble, “If I had money, I would buy land in Guyana.”

But she urged the pri­vate sec­tor not to leave ev­ery­thing to govern­ment. “The day you leave ev­ery­thing up to govern­ment, is the day noth­ing gets done,” she said.

On the spend­ing of the ex­pected mas­sive wind­fall from pro­duc­tion, she said she would rec­om­mend that govern­ment’s na­tional vision should be the im­prove­ment of the lives of all cit­i­zens.

She rec­om­mended a na­tional pol­icy for de­vel­op­ment of Guyana, in­volv­ing all stake­hold­ers.

“You should be sit­ting in a think tank now and de­velop a na­tional pol­icy. What do you see seven generations down?”

If there is none in place, she said, “Don’t wait till 2020. Now is the time to have this na­tional pol­icy for de­vel­op­ment.”

The sale and pro­duc­tion of re­sources must be able to not just move the coun­try’s GDP rank­ings but should have a tan­gi­ble ef­fect on the daily life of every ci­ti­zen.

Lead­ers will need to make bold de­ci­sions to move in­dus­tries for­ward while en­sur­ing at all times a so­cial safety net to cover the most vul­ner­a­ble. “Guyana should not be­come a coun­try of the haves and have-nots,” she warned.

Mov­ing in­dus­tries for­ward, she said, will re­quire vision and agility in nav­i­gat­ing the per­ils of very volatile pric­ing and re­source avail­abil­ity.

“Where you want to be seven generations down,” she said, “is not to be cursed by the black gold from your soil. You want to be where your econ­omy is fully di­ver­si­fied and not de­pen­dent on just the oil and gas sec­tor.”

She con­tin­ued, “That is one mis­take we made in Trinidad and Tobago. To­day I am sure we regret; I cer­tainly do regret that.”

When the oil and gas sec­tor be­comes lu­cra­tive and wages and salaries are much higher than other sec­tors, Per­sadBisses­sar said, ev­ery­one grav­i­tates to­wards it, in­clud­ing sup­port­ing ser­vices.

“There­fore, your en­tire pop­u­la­tion is to­tally fo­cused and locked on to this lu­cra­tive busi­ness of sell­ing black gold and find­ing black gold. Then what hap­pens? Your agri­cul­tural sec­tor is gone. Every other sec­tor is gone and you be­come an ex­porter of the black gold, but then you be­come an im­porter of ev­ery­thing else when all the other sec­tors go.”

T&T has been talk­ing about diver­si­fi­ca­tion for years, she said, “but peo­ple never both­ered be­cause we were mak­ing so much money from the hy­dro­car­bon. Now it will be per­haps too late. ‘Too late’ some will sing and some will cry.”

Trinidad Op­po­si­tion Leader Kamla Per­sad-Bisses­sar speak­ing on Thurs­day

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Guyana

© PressReader. All rights reserved.