Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Investing in becoming a cut above the rest – Pt. 2: New opportunities for world-class competitiveness

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By A. Bacchus

Growing up in a small community in Canal Number One, on the West Bank of Demerara, at a time when very few people had dial-up internet and the ‘big back tv’ that required the youngest in the house to hold tight and turn an antenna ten times their height to catch a clear signal, I learned two things from a young age—one was to never  walk in front of the television when a cricket game is on and the second was the importance of competitiveness. I learned the latter quite early in life. You see, every Sunday, all the children and young adults in the community would gather in the large front yard of my neighbour for lively games of cricket. By 04:00 pm, when we were burnt from hours in the sun with no other source of water but a ‘standpipe’ under a grapefruit tree, we would wait for a familiar ring of a bicycle bell—the ‘icicle man.’ There were two icicle men who frequented that route at the same time, but this one was special. While the other sold the traditional sweet cold, red treat and custard; this one sold an assortment of colours, and his offerings came on a stick so your hands wouldn’t get sticky. Even though he essentially sold for a more expensive price, we rushed to his black ‘Big Benz’ bicycle when he came in sight.

Later in life, I would learn that the term for what he had implemented was the strategy of “competitiveness” even at his small scale. And all businesses do it—be it through sales, promotions, or quality. The oil and gas industry is no different.  Scores of foreign businesses are flocking Guyana since the emergence of the petroleum sector. From 2015 to mid-2021, ExxonMobil spent $96.4 billion on procuring goods and services from local companies, and for the first half of 2021, the Stabroek Block Operator dished out close to $19 billion to pay over 750 Guyanese vendors for goods and services ranging from food items to engineering. The competition is high, not only among local companies but among local and foreign companies for contracts in the industry.

The Local Content Policy seeks to ensure that Guyanese are given contract opportunities. It seeks to, among other things: maximise the use of locally sourced goods and services in the petroleum sector; enhance the capacity of Guyanese businesses and supply chains to become internationally competitive; bring value to investors, through high-quality skills and services; promote alliances between Guyanese and world class firms for the transfer of technology and knowledge transfer and research and development in the industrial sectors; enhance the quality of business support services, infrastructure, and facilities, and enhance the global competitiveness of Guyanese industries. This policy will also have legislative backing. The objectives listed are taken verbatim from the finalised draft policy that was circulated earlier this year. Note the emphasis on competitiveness.

In a previous column, I spoke about the opportunity to increase competitiveness through ISO-9001 certification. To date, the Centre for Local Business Development enabled 20 companies to complete the ISO-9001 programme and of this number, 11 are ISO-certified. Now, by year end, these 11 companies will have the opportunity to build on this certification and attain certification by the American Petroleum Institute (API)—which is seen as an upgrade from the ISO certification. “So, companies have completed the ISO 9001, what’s the next step? For some of them, the next step is the API Q1 mentorship programme,” Director of the Centre, Dr. Natasha Gaskin-Peters shared, recently.

API is a globally recognised certification that is used across the industry. Vice President, Segment Standards and Services at the American Petroleum Institute, Ms. Alexa Burr has emphasised their commitment to building the foundation and competitiveness of local businesses to help support the growth of the oil and gas sector in Guyana. She has gone on record as saying, “Guyana is really becoming a leader in offshore energy development, and we’re excited to be working for the Centre for Local Business Development to help bring a lot of the international expertise that API has through our close to 600 members and bring the lessons learned globally to the efforts in Guyana.” She had also disclosed that operators depend on these certifications to ensure that the equipment they’re using, the suppliers, the services that they’re contracting are reliable and operating in an environmentally safe manner.

With this level of certification, your services can be globally  competitive, and attract a price tag that is comparable to international companies. This is another investment that local businesses can make to ensure that they have the competitive edge in order to meet the contract requirements for and benefit from this fast-paced, quality-conscious industry.

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