Ramnarine urges speedy establishment of Petroleum Commission

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Kevin Ramnarine, Trinidad and Tobago’s former Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs, delivering a presentation in Georgetown, Guyana

Trinidad and Tobago’s former Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs, Kevin Ramnarine, believes that the process for establishing the Petroleum Commission in Guyana should be hastened. He said the work of a Joint Select Committee in Guyana’s Parliament which is currently reviewing the Petroleum Commission Bill, which when passed allows for the establishment of the Commission, should be fast-tracked.

Mr. Ramnarine shared this view at a lecture, organized by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) on Wednesday at Duke Lodge, in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown.

“Why it needs to be established ASAP is because you really only have two and half years before first oil which is mid-2020, so we now have less than three years. This organization should not be established 6 months or one year before first oil. Now is a good time for it to be established to allow it time to build capacity,” he said.

His position, which signals the need for urgency, is at variance with Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman’s view on the same matter. Mr. Trotman told OilNOW in September that getting it right is more important than trying to accelerate the process through Parliament.  “Whilst I am aiming for December of this year I think it is more important that we get the views of the people of Guyana and try to factor those in so that we have a Bill that is truly national in nature…,” he said.

While the Commission, once established, will outline the policy agenda of the Guyana Government, Mr. Ramnarine reminded that it should be separate from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Among the recommendations he put forward are, “The term of the board should not be one year and the board should appoint the minister. The legislation is currently drafted for the Minister to appoint the Commissioner and we should not limit the term of the Commissioner to three years. The reason that I have time frames in this bill is because this is a long-term industry and we need to build certainty and security for investors coming to invest in the industry.”

While the Act allows for the involvement of the Parliamentary Opposition on the board, he also suggested that it should specify that the person should be appointed by the Minister acting on the written advice of the Opposition Leader.

He added, “The way it is currently drafted it could be that the Minister could choose anyone he wants from the Opposition.”

The Former Energy Minister believes that the Commission should be self-funding, “It must never ask the Government of Guyana for a dime,” he stressed.

Once established, the Petroleum Commission of Guyana will assume a lead role in monitoring and regulating the efficient, safe, effective and environmentally responsible exploration, development and production of petroleum. It would also set in motion a raft of measures that are geared towards regulating the industry.

Mr. Trotman had pointed out that a delay in passing the Bill would not affect this process, since the current Petroleum Act already vests certain authority in the Minister and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), to carry out these functions. “We are not in any jeopardy, and we are not producing until 2020 so there is time but we just want to make sure that the fundamentals are in place before production,” he stated.