For Guyana to succeed with the implementation of its Local Content Legislation, its regulators must keep rapid skills development at the top of mind, says University of Guyana Professor, Dr. Leyland Lucas.
The educator made this point during a virtual panel discussion facilitated by the Guyana Business Journal on Wednesday. Hosted by Founder and Associate Professor, Dr. Terrence Richard Blackman, the topic for discussion was Implementing Guyana’s Local Content Policy: Challenges and Opportunities.
There, Dr. Lucas said stakeholders must always remember that there is no such thing as a perfect piece of legislation. Given the challenges Guyana will face along the way, the law, he said, will most likely go through amendments as catered for by its provisions.
Dr. Lucas, who serves on the Ministry of Education’s Advisory Committee on the Hospitality Institute, said the law is being implemented at a time when many of the skills that are necessary to really take advantage of the high-end opportunities in the oil sector, just do not exist within the system. He said therefore that one of the critical things needed to ensure the law takes shape is the ramping up of skills development while bearing in mind that it will not be fixed overnight.
Dr. Lucas said there will be a number of development initiatives that will have to take place. He said some will involve short courses or quick turn-around programmers while others will involve taking advantage of more long-term opportunities.
As authorities grapple with determining the requisite avenues to take for capacity enhancement, he said regulators should hurry to take advantage of the Diaspora’s talent.
“If you look at what has happened because of global developments, business is now being conducted virtually. You have Guyanese experts in the Diaspora who can help us. So, if we are going to engage them, then how do we create a structure for them to help us without them having to be present? Because there are persons who just don’t have the luxury to do so,” the educator stated.
The panellist said one of the things Guyana may end up doing is redefining what is meant by local content to such an extent that it embraces the country’s realities and the need to tap the Diaspora to retain more value from the sector.
Similar recommendations were also made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which has urged Guyana to urgently review its migration laws as well as find other creative means of attracting expertise from the Guyanese Diaspora to help develop its oil sector.
The IMF said many Gulf countries including Kuwait have done this with success. In this respect, it said labour market regulations allowing immigration from the Caribbean as a start, including within CARICOM, would be key.
The Guyana government has not only acknowledged the implications of labour supply shortage but has set out to address same. In its 2022 Mid-Year Report, the Government said a consultant was engaged to review gaps in the labour market and support the design of training and appropriate policy advice to resolve the issue.
The country’s Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, has also said the country may very well have to consider an active but careful migration policy soon as oil development ramp-up will fully absorb the labour market. The government is examining this closely to ensure there is careful calibration moving forward.