“We are willing to learn, build capacity” for oil & gas – Guyanese manufacturing body

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The head of a body that represents manufacturers in Guyana says businesses are eager to learn and build capacity in order to capitalize on opportunities in the oil and gas sector.

President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA)), Shyam Nokta, told about 200 guests gathered at a business dinner on Thursday evening in Guyana’s capital city; Georgetown, that private sector entities recognize they are at the beginner stage of the oil and gas learning curve, and as such, are willing to learn.  “We recognize that we are at the beginner stage of the learning curve. Our businesses may not have the full skills set, the experience, the certifications…but we are willing to learn, we are willing to build capacity, and to partner with more experienced entities from the region and elsewhere,” he said.

However, Mr. Nokta pointed out that attention is also being paid to “…the experiences from other developing countries with oil economies, including those nearby where sole focus on oil and gas can often lead to disproportionate impacts on other productive sectors, including manufacturing.”

The spectre of the Dutch Disease remains a concern for Guyana and deliberations on how to avoid the misuse of the windfall expected from oil production usually take centre-stage in oil and gas discussions in the South American country.

The GMSA President said considering the rapid timeline from discovery to production, and the fact that the right enabling environment for this new sector needs to be put in place, there are concerns regarding opportunities for local businesses to provide goods and services, now, and in the future, and the mechanisms to facilitate this.

“It is important that we get this right from the inception, not at the expense of production timelines, but to ensure that Guyanese businesses are provided with an equal opportunity to be part of this new sector,” he pointed out.

ExxonMobil, the operator in the Stabroek block offshore Guyana, where oil production will begin in mid-2020, says it is eager to partner with Guyanese businesses. The US supermajor recently announced the establishment of the Centre for Local Business Development in Georgetown, which will open this month.

The centre will assist small and medium-sized Guyanese businesses with building their capacity and improving their competitiveness in a range of sectors that serve the oil and gas and other industries.

Mr. Nokta said GMSA welcomes this move by the company and is aware that operators and sub-contractors are engaging with local companies and Expressions of Interest are being put out to for the provision of goods and services. “The GMSA welcomes these initiatives. However, we would like to see more information being readily available to businesses and a coordinated effort between Operators, Government and the private sector,” he said.

The business dinner, organized by GMSA, saw the participation of members of the Guyanese private sector and several other companies, including ExxonMobil. The country’s Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, delivered the feature address.