‘Critics who say we will get nothing from oil sector reckless, uninformed’ – Bharrat

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Since the emergence of oil and gas activities in Guyana, over GY$400 billion (US$2 billion) have been plugged into the economy and more than GY106 billion (US$534 million) have been received in oil revenue from exports and royalties. Additionally, hundreds of millions of US dollars are being invested by companies setting up operations in the country. Natural resources minister Vickram Bharrat told OilNOW that despite these gains he has taken note of critics who continue to say the country will not benefit from oil production and believes that such views are “uninformed” and “reckless”, to say the least.

Mr. Bharrat said when considering the scale of wealth oil will bring, no other sector can do so in a short period of time. He said Guyana has literally unearthed “a trillion-dollar industry” that has the potential to bring the citizenry historic social and economic development under prudent management and leadership of the Dr. Irfaan Ali-led administration.

“We have demonstrated our commitment as a government to transparency and accountability in the sector. We have not spent a cent from the Natural Resource Fund which now holds (US$534M). That aside, look at the number of investments flooding this country because of oil and gas,” Mr. Bharrat said. “I recall speaking to one of the Directors at GYSBI recently as he said, ‘You know Minister, one of our problems now is parking. When we started, about 6 to 10 employees had vehicles, and today almost every one of them has a car.”

He said GYSBI is now poised to expand its operations with Guyanese leading the way. He reminded that the company held a job fair this year following which, 150 locals would be hired to support various aspects of the oil industry in 2022.

“Now that is just GYSBI, you have Saipem, Halliburton, Schlumberger, all these chemical companies, so many others operating here… many others we met at the Offshore Technology Conference are coming to establish a permanent base here, Baker Hughes for example is establishing its office. All of this is happening without a cent of the oil money being spent…,” expressed the natural resources minister.

With the foregoing in mind, he said, “the massive flow of benefits is unquestionable…no other sector is bringing in the considerable wealth oil is bringing and when the local content law comes on stream, those benefits are going to increase tenfold.”

OilNOW had previously reported that Guyana is engaging several experts from Ghana for the fine-tuning of the highly anticipated Local Content Bill. In the meantime, Mr. Bharrat said two of the key focus areas for the government have been sliding scale targets and having a well-thought-out definition of what constitutes a local company. The latter is of particular interest to the minister as he noted that the government does not want to court a situation where a company believes it is enough to be considered “local” by mere registration.

“Registering here doesn’t mean you are truly local, and a lot of companies have been doing that. So, we want to get that definition correct. And we are expected to receive comments on it,” he stated.

At the end of the day, Mr. Bharrat said the government wants to be realistic in its expectations and demands of the sector while noting that the definitions in the draft Bill will be reflective of this intention.

“The end game is to ensure the policy and law will put our people in the driver’s seat; even if some have to be done in partnerships to allow for the skills and technology transfer,” he concluded.

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