As companies continue to show an interest in investing in Guyana, it is imperative that the Government focus on holding these companies to international standards. This was according to United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah Ann-Lynch.
Lynch was at the time speaking during the inaugural Annual General Meeting (AGM) for American Chamber of Commerce in Guyana (AmCham Guyana) at the Marriott hotel on Saturday.
Referencing the recently released Local Content Policy, Lynch hinted that it may send signals to some investors that the employment and other benefits they have to offer are not welcomed. Instead, she urged that Guyana switches its emphasis.
“Rather, the emphasis should be on whether firms are following international best practices on matters such as financial transparency and environmental protection and otherwise acting in a manner that contributes directly to Guyana’s overall sustainable prosperity,” she said.
“Most importantly, Guyana should look at foreign investors as partners in growing the economy, rather than as adversaries. The US Embassy is prepared to and very much wants to work with AmCham to connect your leadership with US experts who can provide guidance on these key issues”.
The event also saw incumbent AmCham President Zulficar Ally being re-elected to his post. In fact, Ally, whose stewardship of AmCham over the past year was commended by Lynch, was unopposed.
AmCham Guyana was launched in August of last year, with a stated objective of promoting trade and business between the United States and Guyana. This came after ExxonMobil’s oil finds put Guyana on the global map, leading to increased interest from foreign investors.
Many AmCham branches exist in countries all around the world, including nearby Trinidad. It was only this year that AmCham Guyana collaborated with its Trinidadian counterparts to host a Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) conference.
The one-day event, held on July 17 under the theme “preparing for sustainable development”, featured an appearance from Exxon Guyana’s Production Manager Mike Ryan. The Manager endeavoured to give an account of his company’s health and safety policies, stressing that ExxonMobil puts the safety of its workers above business and profits.
The need for Guyana to get adequate systems in place to regulate the oil and gas sector was also emphasised at the event, this time by AmCham’s Trinidad and Tobago chapter.
Making these pronouncements was Trinidadian AmCham President Patricia Ghany. She warned about the effects of oil spills and other dangers of the sector when appropriate regulations and regulators were not set up. Ghany’s warnings, however, also included an offer of assistance from her organisation to its local counterparts.
“There are many changes to come that will transform business and investment. With 23 years of experience and leadership in health and safety, AmCham T&T is ready to assist should the need arrive. So don’t hesitate to reach out to us,” she had said.
Guyana’s state of readiness is a sore issue, considering the fact that first oil is next year and only a single piece of legislation related to the sector has been passed.
This legislation is the Natural Resources Fund Bill, which was signed into law by President David Granger earlier this year.
The bill to create a Petroleum Commission is yet to pass in the House, while the national oil spill strategy is still a work in progress.
However, a Local Content Policy was recently completed and even discussed by civil society at a Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) arranged forum.