Maximising local participation in oil and gas discussed at first meeting of Guyana’s Presidents

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Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Tuesday met with three of the South American country’s former Presidents for a wide-ranging discussion on matters of national, regional, and international importance, chief among them being how the nation can maximise benefits from its vast hydrocarbon resources.

According to the Office of the President, it was decided that the group will now reach quarterly.

The three-hour long engagement was held at State House between President Ali and former Presidents Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, Mr Samuel Hinds, and Mr Donald Ramotar. Former President, Mr. David Granger did not participate in the discussions. He had said in an earlier letter that the meeting should be deferred until certain issues are addressed.

The Office of the President said Mr. Ali expressed the hope that Mr Granger would understand the necessity in attending the meeting and being part of the discussions, pointing out that he would again be invited when the group meets in the first quarter of next year.

“Today’s meeting was intended to bring all the former Presidents together in a free-flowing discussion, one in which they could have all placed issues they have a passion about, national issue, on the agenda for a free-flowing discussion. After which we would have characterised all the discussions into various categories in an effort to move forward,” President Ali said.

Key areas discussed included border security, Guyana’s sovereignty, local content development and electoral and constitutional reform. In addition, the former Presidents also discussed environmental concerns and spoke at length about the current Low Carbon Development Strategy (LDCS) framework.

“We have the Low Carbon Development Strategy as our framework and the former Government had a green strategy paper…  So, engagement on the environment, covering issues of climate change, climate adaptation, mitigation, these are all issues that would have been encompassed on the discussions on the environment,” Mr. Ali said.

LOCAL CONTENT, JOB CREATION

According to President Ali, job creation invariably came up in all the discussions. He explained that the former Presidents also shared ideas and strategised on ways that would ensure strong local content and strong local participation, “which would in turn guarantee our human resource base opportunities in oil and gas.”

ELECTORAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM

Electoral and constitutional reform and national unity also formed a significant part of the discussion.

“Those are all the things that came up in the discussions; the whole issue of governance and how do we strengthen governance and ensure that governance is more accountable and responsive, easier to access,” President Ali said.

He emphasised that the meeting would not be a “one off” occurrence, but rather the first of many high-level discussions among the former Presidents, which will allow for the sharing of information and more importantly dialogue to help chart the country’s development agenda.

“This is not a one-off engagement; this is an engagement that will occur once every quarter and will involve all the former Presidents.” It is focused at a very strategic level. It is not at an implementation level,” Mr. Ali pointed out.

Alluding to the impact of the meeting, Former President Samuel Hinds said, “I think this was a good first step. And, yes, there needs to be [an] agenda … For me, I think this is more an opportunity to meet and talk freely and easily.”

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