The business community in Guyana is coming in for heavy criticism from two of its members who say a lack of understanding of what is happening in the country’s emerging oil and gas sector and an unwillingness to invest and innovate, are issues that must be urgently addressed.
With a number of business opportunities becoming available in the supply chain as the South American country moves closer to first oil in 2020, there have been concerns from members of the private sector that the influx of foreign companies can result in them being sidelined.
But being prepared, equipped and ready to provide goods and services is vital if the local business community is to benefit from these opportunities. In addition to having the capacity, the President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) believes operators in the country’s private sector simply lack an understanding of what is going on in the emerging oil and gas industry, and need to “wake up.”
During a recent interview with OilNOW, Deodat Indar, GCCI’s newly elected President, said, “Guyanese companies need to wake up. You need to wake up, you need to get in the groove, because you are out of the game, you’re not too close to the track that is going on. You are not knowing when these tenders are out for supplies to the oil and gas industry. You need to get in the game. You need to get close to the business. You need to understand what is going on. You need to wake up.”
Mr. Indar said the failure of Guyanese businesses to “wake up” would mean ceding opportunities to business operators from other countries in the industry.
When asked what the private sector, specifically GCCI, is doing to help Guyanese businesses “wake up” and play a more active role in the industry, Mr. Indar said the focus now is on sensitization and education. “It’s sensitization. Because they do not understand the magnitude of what is before them and how it can grow their business, I think that is where the uncertainty to make a decision to invest is in. Because they do not know, it’s fear of the uncertain to some extent…We as the business leaders; we will start to raise this voice, we’re gonna start to beat the drum…but as Guyanese people we need…to stop walking and sleeping.”
Meanwhile, Managing Director of Guyanese company; Ground Structures Engineering Consultants, Charles Ceres, says he does not see a private sector in Guyana, but a group of businesses that are dependent on the government’s resources to be successful. “I don’t see a private sector in Guyana. I see people who are dependent on the government’s resources to be successful. So, I don’t know how you can call that a private sector. Private sector is made up of people who are innovative…”
Mr. Ceres was at the time responding to a question from OilNOW about the role of Guyana’s private sector in the oil and gas industry. He was asked this question against the backdrop of the recent collaboration between Ground Structures and Dutch company, Fugro. Already, several Guyanese from Mr. Ceres’ company are receiving specialized training in sea survival and offshore geotechnical investigation because of this partnership, and this transfer of knowledge and skills is expected to increase.
Notwithstanding the shortcomings in the local business community, more companies are beginning to step up and build capacity so they can be ready to provide goods, services and expertise in what is expected to be a transformational industry for Guyana.
A draft local content policy framework has been developed by Guyana’s Ministry of Natural Resources and is currently under review. The main operator in the industry, ExxonMobil, says it remains committed to training Guyanese and ensuring local businesses have an opportunity to play a role in the sector. The US super-major is also expected to launch its Business Development Centre next month in the country’s capital; Georgetown.