The power of gas

Dear Editor,
Qatar is just a small dusty, flat piece of land that is scarcely arable and with very little rainfall and no rivers to use for irrigation. When Guyana gained independence in 1966, the prospect then, for living in Qatar was bleak with limited fishing and pearl diving. In 1966, while its GDP per capita was double Guyana’s; in 2023 it was almost 19 times more. This story tells the power of gas.
If Qatar was to only rely on oil, it would have never been as rich as it is today and that story has much relevance to Guyana. Therefore, when one listened to His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s statement at the Guyana Energy Conference, they would hear him revealing aspects of the Guyana Gas Plan, which to my mind was nothing but refreshing and reinvigorating.
In this letter therefore, my task will be to focus on Qatar and the idea of how they used GAS to unleash their potential and the relevance that story has on Guyana’s future.
But most importantly to ask all Guyanese who are having doubts about where we are, to suspend those doubts and deeply apply their minds to this National Gas Strategy to be able to better understand how and why GAS matters to Guyana more than oil.
In 1971, Qatar found the geographic discovery of the century and it was not oil, it was GAS. SHELL found an off-shore gas field in the middle of the Persian Gulf. At that time, SHELL could not economically harvest these gas reserves and so it abandoned the Project. Enters ExxonMobil and a Qatari leader in 1995, named Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-thani. By 2010, this team transformed Qatar into the richest nation per capita in the world.
It took Qatar 15 years with the support of ExxonMobil and western money to build up the largest and most competitive Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) business in the world. It was all about the scale. This conglomerate constructed the largest artificial deep-water harbor in the world. They also commissioned some of the largest LNG container ships to feed the Japanese, Korean and Singaporean markets and generated more than a trillion US dollars in revenues from Asia alone in the last decade. In other words, there is real money in GAS and Guyana still has a great opportunity in its GAS Sector.
At business school and in the executive offices, the reality has always manifested itself in the concept of “he who takes the risk, exhibits the entrepreneurial spirit, assembles the finance and takes the responsibility for getting the job done”, is entitled to the bounties of the investment. So who is taking the risks? Who is assembling the finance? Who is taking the responsibility for getting the job done?
Therefore the fact that ExxonMobil has found so much gas in its oil exploration efforts gives Guyana a golden opportunity to lead from the front on this local GAS Sector. While we have benefited from US$1.6 Billion in new cash injections from the oil in 2023, as a nation, we stand to gain much more if we focus on this National Gas Strategy as presented by his Excellency on February 19, 2024 at the Energy Conference.
The oil is a means to an end and the real end game is food security, energy security, and climate security with a menu of home grown businesses that will foster human development in a sustainable manner for the next 100 years as we as a people unleash our true potential.
While I would want to focus on the gas, I want to close my submission on the oil by stating that the risk takers are contractually entitled to be rewarded fairly for the risks they have taken or else every single international firm will treat Guyana as a contract breaker and a possible pariah state with a banana republic mentality. The core principle of contract law remains “pacta sunt servanda” which translates to “once both parties have agreed to and signed a valid contract, they are legally bound to fulfill their obligations under the terms”.
Former President of Guyana Dr. Bharat Jagdeo and now Vice President of Guyana clearly understood the scope and depth of this oil investment when he stated many years ago in 2020 that “if we take all of the deposits of every single Guyanese and the Government in the banking system and put them all together, it still would not have been enough to finance the Liza-1 Project”. Those who are thinking must ponder and understand the gravity of that statement.
That is why the statement at the Energy Conference from His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali is so relevant today under the theme “Fueling Transformation and Modernization”. The Guyana GAS Master Plan must be embraced, exploited in a Guyanese led framework and monetized in our people’s favour.
On February 19, 2024, His Excellency also reminded the nation of the transformational project that links Northern Brazil to New Amsterdam with a deep-water port. This is where the money has to be spent.
My humble suggestion to all is to support His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali and this grand idea of implementing the National Gas Strategy as soon as possible.

Sasenarine Singh