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“I’m not impressed with Govt’s readiness” – political analyst

first_imgOil and gas sector As the time draws closer for first oil, which is expected in the first half of 2020, Government has been making plans to prepare for this new sector, which has the potential to transform the economy, improve infrastructure, and advance the social services in the country.However, much has been said about the Government’s slothfulness in looking towards implementing key pieces of legislation that would guide the sector beyond that critical year.Adding his voice to that argument is former Government minister and political analyst Dr Henry Jeffrey, who feels Government’s approach is questionable.A drill ship offshore Guyan“From the little that I read in the press, I am not impressed that we (Guyana), or the Government, has its hands on all the major pulses,” Jeffrey told Guyana Times in a recent interview.He opined that the coalition Administration has not inspired in the Guyanese populace any significant hope that it knows what it is doing in this sector.He said, “We have now set up an Energy Department. We have a head who doesn’t know anything about oil, and we will have to depend on somebody as the chief technical head who worked with a foreign Government for 6 months.”Dr Jeffrey was referring to Dr Mark Bynoe, who is experienced in the area of climate change and other environmental issues.On the other hand, the technical head he referred to is Matthew Wilks, who was appointed Oil and Gas Adviser in the Department of Energy within the Ministry of the Presidency. Wilks has worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, among several other countries.It was, however, reported that Wilks had, in January of this year, joined a company called Spring Stone Energy Limited, and had worked there until he took up the post at Guyana’s Department of Energy.There has been great suspicion that the company lists Matthew Edmund Wilks as its director and Amanda Catherine Wilks as a director, finance manager and secretary of the company. The company also has two shareholders, it has been reported.“You can have hundreds of years working for the industry itself, but you have to know the ramifications with working with pressures, particularly a place like Guyana. And what does that mean? If you work with the Government of Australia, the relation with them and the Opposition might be a normal democratic thing. It’s not here,” Dr Jeffrey stated.Local contentOn the issue of local content, the political analyst also expressed disappointment at the manner in which this issue is being dealt with by both the Government and those within the local private sector, whom he feels should be demanding certain benefits.“I think the local content was perhaps one of the first legal documents we should have had. Up to now we are still messing around with it. And people are saying, ‘Don’t worry we’ll look after you’. There is no rule that you have to use services in Guyana,” he added.The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) had submitted a model local content legislation to the Government, saying that the move is part of safeguarding the rights of Guyanese businesses. The Chamber has expressed disappointment that there has been no legislative framework since 2015, when the first oil discovery was made here.President of the GCCI, Deodat Indar, has contended that the draft Local Content Legislation, if adopted by the APNU/AFC Government, would fill that gap and correct the wrongs being done to Guyanese businesses.The draft Local Content Policy has in recent months been criticised for lacking provisions which would safeguard against exploitation by companies, especially since there have been intensified reports of local companies being bypassed for contracts and services.While Dr Jeffrey recognises the work the private sector has been doing in regard to the draft Local Content Policy, he said, “I see they are doing things, but they have always been relatively weak. If it were a case of Jamaica, it would have been a different game. Yes, they are pressing, but they are still in that initial stage; and maybe the entire political structure has made them so. They are not as vocal, pressing and pushy as they would have been normally expected to be.”The second review of the local content policy is expected to be completed by the first quarter of next year. Government has said it is important for the new legislation to be ‘balanced’, since a ‘too strongly national’ local content policy can jeopardise the efficiency or the viability of the company being relied on to harness the resource.Guyana is now home to the world’s biggest new deep-water oil discovery. United States oil giant ExxonMobil has been keen to push development of the oil reserves. Production could begin in 2020 with production of some 500,000 barrels of oil a day. (Samuel Sukhnandan)last_img

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