… Govt should learn from mistakes of oil producing countries – UK Minister
With Guyana on the verge of becoming an oil-producing state, United Kingdom Minister of Africa, Caribbean and Overseas Territories James Duddridge has noted that the country should learn from the mistakes of others
in order to have a thriving oil sector.
Duddridge was at the time responding to questions from the local media on whether the UK will assist the Guyana Government in developing the oil sector here. The British Minister, who is on a familiarisation tour of the Caribbean, said this is an area in which the UK is definitely willing to help.
“Obviously we have a lot of experience in oil exploration given the North Sea reserves so we got quite a lot of technical expertise,” he stated, while adding there are a number of UK companies involved in oil exploration and may be interested in expanding operations here.
However, the British Minister cautioned Guyana not be solely or too dependent on sectors such as oil for economic support. He noted that the Guyanese Government should take notes from other oil-producing nations in order to prevent any downfall.
“There are a lot of international examples in relation to the oil industry as to how you can really reap the rewards of oil while avoiding some of the obvious mistakes that have been made elsewhere around the world without wasting an opportunity,” he remarked.
Moreover, Duddridge went on to outline that while it might be part of a country’s supply economy, it is not the single answer to its problem. “Perhaps that’s where we can be useful in how oil can be part of a prosperous Guyana; but it’s never going to be the single thing that drives the country,” he posited.
The British MP further stressed that it is very unstable to focus on one commodity since the private sector is more into diversity and adding values to commodities through manufacturing and creating end products that are more profit-valued and taxations are retained.
On the other hand, with Guyana being ranked 137th among countries around the world that are on the “Ease of Doing Business” list, the British minister believes the country should be looking at ways to improve the formal and legal procedures to ensure efficiency, so overseas businesses can become interested in investing here.
In fact, Duddridge told reporters that this is an area his government is also willing to help Guyana enhance. He noted that some of the basic things that need to be improved are: speed of time to get company information, opening a bank account, registering of a land, registering to pay taxes, having clear payment processes in place and a clarity on labour relations. He opined that this can only be achieved when there is cooperation from leaders.
“It doesn’t take a transformation overnight, but what is the most important thing in the international community is a positive trajectory in leadership from democratic and elected politicians, and if you have that countries get the investments,” the British MP stressed.
He went on to say that such an environment creates a virtuous circle whereby companies make profits, they pay large amounts on taxation and taxes are then spent by democratic and elected politicians thus further developing the country and paving way for more investments.
“It becomes a virtuous circle. I see that time and time again in different countries that I’ve travelled as a Minister but it does take quite a focus on making it easier to do business. If you do that people will come, people will invest and it’s not only about international and regional investors but making it easier for people who live here, to invest rather than simply send their money elsewhere… that doesn’t make any sense when there is so many great opportunities here in Guyana,” Minister Duddridge stated.
The British minister further pointed out that investors see Guyana as a hub for both the Caribbean and South America, especially since it is an English-speaking country. He said its geographical location gives Guyana a “pretty unique competitive” advantage. He added too that this is compounded by the fact Guyana has a good work force, an educated work force and the availability of land and resources. “You got a lot going for you,” he said.
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner Gregory Quinn stated they will be meeting with the Guyana Minister of Business soon and identifying specific areas the UK can help to improve the way business is done locally by sharing experience and expertise.