As we celebrate Christmas today, it is time for reflection on the year that is about to end. This year, the level of optimism at the moment in Guyana is building. A country that was once regarded as one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere is now an oil- producing nation.
With this new wealth, the opportunity therefore to become a progressive and modern state are now right in front of us. It is now up to our political leaders, the business community, civil society, and citizens themselves to work in harmony so as to ensure that all this talk about oil and the huge potential it has for our development could really translate into actually improving the quality of life for everyone here.
Yesterday (Monday), Exxon announced that it has made yet another oil discovery offshore Guyana, at the Mako-1 well southeast of the Liza field, marking the 15th discovery on the Stabroek Block. The discovery adds to the previously announced estimated recoverable resource of more than 6 billion oil-equivalent barrels on the Stabroek Block.
The Liza Phase 1 development achieved first oil on December 20, 2019, and will produce up to 120,000 barrels of oil per day utilising the Liza Destiny floating production storage and offloading vessel (FPSO). The Liza Unity FPSO, which will be employed for the second phase of Liza development and will have a production capacity of 220,000 barrels of oil per day, is under construction and is expected to start production by mid-2022.
It should also be stated that pending Government approvals and project sanctioning of a third development, production from the Payara field north of the Liza discoveries could start as early as 2023, reaching an estimated 220,000 barrels of oil per day. Added to this is that drilling activities in Guyana continue with four drillships to further explore and appraise new resources, as well as develop the resources within approved projects.
These are indeed exciting times for Guyanese, and certainly, with the passage of time, citizens here would be able to analyse what all of this means to them, if indeed their lives have changed for the better. The fact is that Guyana is now considered a country with massive opportunities, and everyone must position themselves to benefit from the sector.
Civil society and citizens themselves must continue to put pressure on those in authority, to ensure that the relevant mechanisms are in place that would see accountability and transparency in the management of the sector, and that Guyanese are allowed to benefit from the opportunities available.
There is urgent need for the necessary checks and balances to be put in place to ensure that Guyana’s interests are safeguarded. For example, First Oil was announced last Friday, yet there is no robust local content policy or Petroleum Commission in place, in spite of promises from the Government that these would be given priority. In the absence of a Petroleum Commission, the Department of Energy has been carrying out much of the functions that would be expected of such a commission. The difference, however, is that the Department reports directly to the President.
Further, with the exception of the National Resource Fund Act, not a single oil-related bill has been tabled by the Government and made into law.
We are convinced that this country has a bright future ahead, but our leaders must look beyond partisan politics and work together in the nation’s interest. It is hoped that once the March elections are come and gone, the country would return to normalcy as soon as possible. The Government that is elected in a free, fair and transparent process must be allowed to govern. It must also utilise a bipartisan approach as it relates to the management of the oil sector, more so how the funds are being dispersed.
There are still many challenges confronting the nation; for example, quite a number of persons are living below the poverty line; public infrastructure is not up to standard; social services such as health and education need to be improved; many young people cannot afford to further their studies or acquire specialised training; high unemployment, constant power outages, and so on. The oil wealth will not solve all of the country’s problems, but if managed properly, would certainly give a tremendous boost to our development potential.
Today, as we celebrate Christmas, let us remember that Guyana has another opportunity to become a wonderful country; a place where young people would be happy to stay and help in its development. It is hoped our leaders will not squander it.