Guyana must beware of attempts by Trinidad & Tobago to dominate oil discourse – Former Minister

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Robert Persuad, Guyana's former Minister of Natural Resources

The discourse on, and direction of Guyana’s oil and gas development framework must not be driven nor dictated by the Trinidad and Tobago experience, or any other singular case. This view was made public by Guyana’s former Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persuad, via a commentary on his Facebook page Thursday.

According to Persaud, “It seems recently many of the non-governmental discourses or conversations have had a strong TT fragrance.  I know the record will show that I signed an MoU on collaboration for oil and gas with TT (as was and is being done with other bilateral and multilateral partners) but this was not to be a gateway for TT domination rather it was about mutual cooperation.”

He added, “Guyana must do what’s best for Guyana and Guyanese as we develop a new sector learning from the best (and TT does not fall into this category) examples and experiences.”

Persaud served as Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment up until 2015 when the new coalition-led government took over, following national elections in Guyana.

Criticism about the perceived push from Trinidad and Tobago corporations, entrepreneurs and those with experience in the oil and gas industry to dominate the conversation and direction of Guyana’s emerging industry has been growing over the last several months.

As far as knowledge and expertise in the industry goes, some are of the view that Guyana must consciously look beyond the Trinidad and Tobago model. An official in the oil and gas industry who spoke to OilNOW on condition of anonymity, said Trinidad “has not done a great job” in diversifying its economy and putting up measures to combat declining oil and gas prices. The official said this is a key step in avoiding the Dutch Disease and one that Guyana must pay close attention to as it becomes an oil producer.

While Guyana’s private sector has acknowledged that the input from external sources in Guyana’s oil and gas industry is necessary, since the country does not possess all the expertise, it has been made clear that such collaboration must be mutually beneficial.

“We need to have a system where transfer of knowledge can happen at a private sector level…at an enterprise level,” President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Deodat Indar, told OilNOW in June.

Late last year, Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Energy and Energy Resources, Nicole Olivierre met with Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman. At that meeting, the Trinidadian official said her government is keen to collaborate with Guyana to support the country’s efforts to develop its petroleum sector.

She was quoted as saying, “Having had several decades of experience we can certainly assist the Government on guiding them on the various pitfalls to avoid when dealing with the multinational companies and developing the industry for the benefit of the people of Guyana.”

Trinidad and Tobago’s former energy minister, Kevin Ramnarine, said at an oil and gas seminar earlier this year in Guyana that the country was at a unique position being at the beginner’s stage of the oil and gas curve. As such, he said a good strategy would be to study the best experiences from countries both near and further afield, and try to adopt what worked and discard that which did not.