Guyana Opposition Leader decries state of preparedness for oil & gas

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Leader of the Opposition in Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, speaking to reporters at a press conference on Wednesday, May 16, 2018.

Leader of the Opposition Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) in Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, on Wednesday outlined a number of key legislation for the country’s emerging oil and gas industry which are yet to be finalized, pointing out that this is a clear sign of the government not yet having everything in place for first oil.

Mr. Jagdeo, who also served as President of the South American country from August 1999 to December 2011, was at the time speaking at a press conference held at his office in the country’s capital city, Georgetown.

The Opposition Leader, in providing a line by line response to a list of achievements documented by the government to mark its 3rd year in office, cited a statement in a Department of Public Information (DPI) publication attributed to Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, which said all measures are in place for oil and gas sector.

Under the caption; ‘Preparing for first oil’ the DPI publication said the Guyana government “has been proactive in its approach” to the sector, thereby ensuring “the best outcomes for its people are in place even before the first barrel of oil is sold.”

The publication then went on to list several interventions and pieces of legislation, many of which are in various stages of development.

However, Mr. Jagdeo made it clear to reporters that his position on the state of preparedness for the new industry was at variance to what is contained in the government publication. “We still haven’t gotten the Petroleum Commission, no local content legislation, no Sovereign Wealth Fund, no decision on whether they will auction the blocks…but all the measures are in place for 2020,” he said.

The most recent comments from Mr. Trotman on the Petroleum Commission Bill point to a move that would soon see an expert provided by the World Bank assisting in redrafting the document.  “The intention is to have the bill back before the house (either a complete redraft or a new bill) by June of this year,” he said on Tuesday.

A second draft local content policy framework was recently released by the Ministry of Natural Resources for public scrutiny and input, while the Sovereign Wealth Fund legislation is yet to make its way to Parliament. A special workshop on the fund is scheduled to be held on May 21 where all government ministers and Members of Parliament including the Opposition will be invited to participate.

Some stakeholders and sections of the society in Guyana have said that preparations for first oil should have been at a more advanced stage since the country is less than 2 years away from production. Mr. Trotman has however maintained that all systems will be in place in time for 2020.