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Proper leg­isla­tive frame­work to cover the oil and gas sec­tor is es­sen­tial to en­sure that multi­na­tion­als con­trib­ute ad­e­quately to the de­vel­op­ment of Guyana even as they in­vest and ben­e­fit by find­ing and pro­duc­ing oil, Trinidad and Tobago’s Leader of the Op­po­si­tion Kamla Per­sad-Bisses­sar says.

“You don’t want to end up in a dif­fer­ent kind of slav­ery,” she said.

“Sugar was king and they took the sugar from us. We were colonised- slaves and in­den­tures. They took our sugar and our choco­late, man­u­fac­tured them and sold them back to us. Don’t let that hap­pen with your oil and gas.”

Ad­dress­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers and other in­vi­tees on Thurs­day evening at the Guyana Man­u­fac­tur­ing and Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual awards at the Pe­ga­sus Ho­tel, in Kingston, Ge­orge­town, Per­sad-Bisses­sar said Guyana will need the for­eign in­vest­ment but it also needs the lo­cal con­tent which must be pro­tected.

Shar­ing Trinidad and Tobago’s ex­pe­ri­ences and lessons learned in manag­ing its oil and gas rev­enues, she said, ini­tially ev­ery­thing in the oil and gas sec­tor was for­eign-owned, then state-owned and gov­ern­ment-con­trolled, but be­cause of mis­man­age­ment Trinidad and Tobago is cur­rently re­turn­ing to putting the sec­tor back into the hands of for­eign­ers.

With T&T ex­port­ing crude, she said, “We now have to buy the things that NP (Na­tional Petroleum) was pro­duc­ing, the oil and the lu­bri­cants. We have to im­port them. Don’t let that hap­pen to you. In man­u­fac­tur­ing of petro­chem­i­cals, get in­volved in the down­stream in­dus­tries. It is a great place you can get in­volved. Set up your own man­u­fac­tur­ing in the en­ergy sec­tor and con­tin­u­ing with other man­u­fac­tur­ing.”

She added, “Do not put all your eggs in the one bas­ket of black gold.”

In ne­go­ti­a­tions, she said, it was im­por­tant that Guyana gets the best deals pos­si­ble and that its ne­go­tia­tors be among the best and highly spe­cialised in their fields of ex­per­tise.

“Get the young ones trained—your own lo­cal con­tent to be trained,” she said.

The Univer­sity of the West Indies (UWI), listed by the World Univer­sity Rank­ings as be­ing in the top five per cent of uni­ver­si­ties in the world, she said, is al­ready pre­par­ing the re­gional so­ci­ety for a sus­tain­able growth fu­ture by of­fer­ing the level of in­sight and man­age­ment re­quired for strong and po­tent de­ci­sion mak­ing.

While UWI of­fers bach­e­lor’s and mas­ter’s de­gree pro­grammes in en­ergy man­age­ment and re­source de­vel­op­ment among busi­ness man­age­ment pro­grammes, she said, the Univer­sity of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), of­fers sig­nif­i­cant train­ing in vo­ca­tional pro­grammes al­lied to the petroleum sec­tor. There is also a drilling acad­emy at UTT.

“These are op­por­tu­ni­ties close to home which Guyana may very well con­sider as you in­vest in the best in class to train your own work­force,” she said.

Pro­cure­ment trans­parency

Not­ing that ne­go­ti­a­tions on pric­ing are highly com­plex and con­tro­ver­sial, she said, in to­day’s world of te­dious lit­i­ga­tion, re­search and prepa­ra­tion on these is­sues must be fore­most in the minds of leg­is­la­tors and ne­go­tia­tors as one does not of­ten get the op­por­tu­nity to re­turn to a bar­gain­ing ta­ble when the ink dries on the con­tracts.

At the heart of these ne­go­ti­a­tions, she said, must be that Guyana must al­ways get the best deals for its pat­ri­mony from the oil and gas and its other re­sources.

“I have long held the view that the as­sets of the state be­long in equal mea­sure to ev­ery ci­ti­zen, and in this re­gard, I have al­ways ad­vo­cated that the pro­cure­ment of as­sets of the state as well as the dis­posal of as­sets must con­form to the most strin­gent stan­dards of com­pli­ancy and in the most trans­par­ent man­ner as pos­si­ble,” she noted.

Lead­ers and key stake­hold­ers in the emerg­ing oil and gas in­dus­tries, Per­sadBisses­sar said, need to hold gov­ern­ment ac­count­able to the high­est stan­dards for the care of the lands and as­sets of the state.

The key to this, she said, is the es­tab­lish­ment of an Of­fice of Pro­cure­ment, which is com­pletely in­de­pen­dent of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.

Cur­rently in T&T, she said, “there are se­ri­ous con­cerns about the dis­posal of the bil­lions of dol­lars of Petrotrin’s (Petroleum Com­pany of Trinidad and Tobago) as­sets, be­cause gov­ern­ment has failed to pro­claim our pro­cure­ment leg­is­la­tion and so far fail to em­power the Of­fice of the Pro­cure­ment Reg­u­la­tor.”

The lessons of the re­cent flood­ing dis­as­ter in T&T, she said, “have brought out in the wash, al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion in­volv­ing for­mer and cur­rent min­is­ters.”

This in­volved the set­tle­ment of hun­dreds of cit­i­zens in a state hous­ing de­vel­op­ment which was built with­out build­ing and safety ap­provals and with­out any trans­par­ent pro­cure­ment process, she said. “I can­not stress enough the crit­i­cal need for proper pro­cure­ment prac­tices to be en­acted in your coun­try,” she said, be­fore adding “With peo­ple com­ing to in­vest in Guyana, not a con­tract should be granted with­out proper pro­cure­ment and trans­parency tak­ing place.”

Ev­ery time gov­ern­ment has to give out con­tracts there has to be a process, she said, “It must not be about friends and fam­ily. It must be done through a trans­par­ent process. Too of­ten you hear about politi­cians giv­ing to fam­ily and friends.”

“When con­tracts are to be awarded and many will be awarded when you go into these new ven­tures,” she said, “you will need proper pro­cure­ment leg­is­la­tion.”

Laws to gov­ern dis­posal of as­sets, she added, could be done in the same statute as pro­cure­ment.

Kamla Per­sad-Bisses­sar

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