Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Guyana government perplexed over criticism it is working too fast

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Guyana’s Attorney General (AG), Anil Nandlall said in an interview last week the government’s development agenda, which includes full support for the offshore oil and gas operations, will not slow down even though some sections of the society seem to be taking issue with the pace at which the administration is moving.

Commenting on a recent article based on a statement signed by several non-governmental organisations urging greater accountability in the extractive sector, the AG said the motive of these groups is questionable.

“So, I want to know, as a Guyanese – forget that I’m a minister or a government person – who are these people? Whose interests are they representing? Who is funding them? I believe that there is some organization somewhere, or organizations somewhere, that has an agenda that is unknown to me, who are behind these different groupings of people,” he said.

The March 3 article criticized the government over what it described as the “stripping” of the Public Oversight & Accountability Committee (POAC) from the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Act; reducing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “to a rubber-stamp,” and the pending appointment of a “high-profile party person” to head the Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GYEITI).

Mr. Nandlall said government recognizes the significant role that civil society and these organizations must play but called into question the credibility of several of the groups endorsing the statement, noting that he is doubtful some were even aware their names would be used for this purpose.

OilNOW understands that several of the groups have since distanced themselves from the statement, saying they had no prior knowledge.

“Certainly, these organizations cannot be politically partisan. They must not be conveniently critical. They must not appear to be prosecuting an agenda that is sinister, that is capricious, that is arbitrary and that is unknown,” he said.

The government has stated on several occasions that it remains fully supportive of oil and gas exploration and production activities since it sees this as a key means of bringing in much needed revenue. At the same time, it said it remains committed to environmental protection and Guyana’s climate goals, citing its comprehensive Low Carbon Development Strategy, the origins of which predates oil, and which has since been further updated. Ensuring benefits to Guyanese are maximised is also a key goal of the government. In this regard, it passed a landmark local content law last December and has since set up a secretariat for its implementation.

Commenting further on the calls being made by the groups, Mr. Nandlall said, “…when you examine what they have a problem with; you know what is one of the criticisms that they have leveled against the government? They are apparently annoyed at the place at which the government is moving.”

He further added, “We have a developmental plan for Guyana. We have a manifesto. For the first time, Guyanese have a real opportunity of living in a better country and enjoying a better standard of life and we are fortunate to be in the seat of government and we are going to deliver that to the people of Guyana. That is what we promise.”

Guyana is poised to become one of the top oil producers in the Latin America/Caribbean region with output expected to surpass the one million barrels of oil per day mark before the end of the decade.

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