Guyana’s framework must not be driven by T&T experience – Persaud

Oil and gas development

The discourse on and direction of Guyana’s oil and gas development framework must not be driven nor dictated by the Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) experience or any other singular case, says former Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud.
While recognising that many recent non-governmental conversations have had what he described as a “strong (T&T) fragrance”, Persaud said Guyana could look at other examples in the world, where oil helped to shape a bright future for countries, as the twin-island republic was not one of them.
“Guyana must do what’s best for Guyana and Guyanese as we develop a new sector, learning from the best examples and experiences in the oil and gas sector,” he asserted.
The former Minister said while the record showed that Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during his tenure as Minister on collaboration for oil and gas with the neighbouring island, as was and is being done with other bilateral and multilateral partners, it was about mutual cooperation and not meant to be a gateway for T&T domination.
Social activist and commentator Ramon Gaskin also believes that Guyana should not depend heavily on the experiences of the sister Caricom nation, explaining that Guyana already has laws that govern the operation of the oil and gas industry and that should be discussed more.
Gaskin said, “We have the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act. We already have a framework here passed by the National Assembly of Guyana. We don’t need to worry with Trinidad. We already have laws here in place. Secondly, Parliament passed a Petroleum Commission Bill.”
The outspoken activist and economist believes that more attention should be paid towards reviewing the current act to ensure that it is modernised, given the complexities of the industry.
Nevertheless, he also recognised that many of the forums on oil and gas have had many Trinidadians as their guest speakers, many of whom worked within that country’s industry. He said maybe these forums could also attract professionals in the industry from other countries around the world.
Subsequent to the discovery of commercial quantities of oil offshore Guyana in 2015, several groups were formed and have hosted forums to discuss the industry. Many of them, including the Guyana Oil and Gas Association, have also brought in many Trinidadians to speak at these forums.
Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman had said that Guyana could be susceptible to the “resource curse” brought on by sudden oil wealth and potential corruption. Guyana has no experience and few resources to handle taxation, regulation, and environmental control related to energy production.
Guyana has sought advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the US State Department to draft legislation for a fiscal regime for oil revenues, environmental regulations, and government oversight. The Mexican Petroleum Institute will also assist to train welders, drillers, and other oilfield workers.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has publicly stated that he sees the Norwegian oil and gas model as one of the best in the world, particularly that country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund legislation is best to serve as a model for Guyana to manage and save large inflows of oil revenues when production begins in 2020.
While some countries have not effectively managed their oil resources, others have used these natural resources as a means of lifting their citizenry out of poverty and developing strong social and economic programmes that have benefited citizens.