Local Content Policy still in consultation phase – Energy Dept

Despite mounting pressure on the Energy Department to finalise a Local Content Policy which would allow Guyanese to benefit from the oil and gas sector, the key piece of legislation is still in consultation phase.

Director of Energy, Dr Mark Bynoe

This was revealed on Friday during a press conference hosted by the Department of Energy. According to the Director of the Department, Dr Mark Bynoe, he is looking forward to the consultancy phase being completed by June.
“The Local Content Policy… draft report is currently with us, and we are looking towards possibly the ending of June for the completion of that consultancy, given the consultations necessary before that policy is finalised,” he explained.
The Government’s Energy Department Head had assured that the document would be ready long before first oil, which is now due in a matter of months. This commitment was given more than three years after oil was first discovered off Guyana’s coast by United States oil giant ExxonMobil.
During a recent interview with this publication, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Nicholas Boyer, had said he was not too pleased with the slothful way in which the Local Content Policy is being developed. Moreover, Boyer stated that he would like to see the Policy created before, and not after, first oil.
“We would like to see the regulations governing the oil industry in place before first oil, not after. We want to see the regulatory environment that will govern the oil industry in place before first oil, and a regulatory environment that has the buy-in of the nation,” he detailed.
The Chamber has long been demanding a Local Content Policy to ensure that locals get their share of the pie from oil and gas revenues.
In the most recent call made by the Chamber, its President reminded that a number of drafts for the said policy had been completed, but the locals remain in suspense for the final document.
“We were even teased with the fact that the policy would then be followed by legislation; but, to date, we need to see the regulatory environment be put in place to manage the oil industry,” Boyer pointed out.
He referred to the fact that first oil is expected as early as this year end, but Government is still dragging its feet on preparation of the legislation.
The President of the Chamber acknowledged that he has taken note of some positive steps the Government has made in this regard, but he noted that the business community remains concerned about its involvement in the nascent oil and gas sector.
Boyer was keen to note that the GCCI has been engaging policy-makers in this regard. In fact, he explained that several meetings were held with former Business Minister Dominic Gaskin and other agencies tied into the sector, but the GCCI is still waiting to see the fruits of those discussions.
He concluded that the Government should work harder to ensure everything is in place before first oil. “On the Government and regulatory side, we need to do more to be able to have our things in place, to be able to take on local content or have local businesses participate in the industry.”
The Local Content Policy would guide the State in guarding against local companies being bypassed for contracts and services while foreign companies and workers are favoured.
Former Business Minister Dominic Gaskin had said the second review of the Local Content Policy is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2019, as Government wants the new legislation to be ‘balanced’.
Government’s position is that a ‘too strongly national’ Local Content Policy could jeopardise the efficiency or viability of the company being relied on to extract the resource.
According to the draft Local Content Framework document, the policy seeks to address the suite of opportunities that may arise, and the approaches to be taken in selecting and developing opportunities related to enhancing the capabilities of Guyanese nationals and businesses through training and well-tailored social contributions for greater impact and benefits, among other things.
The draft Local Content Policy has been criticised for lacking provisions which would safeguard against exploitation by companies. It had been reported that the document does not cater for issues such as: how to avoid procurement fraud, and conflict of interest and favouritism, among other things.
Like the Private Sector, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party has also been blasting Government for its failure to have this key piece of legislation produced.