Guyanese public servants on Monday heard that the nation’s emerging oil and gas sector holds the potential to turn the country into the ‘jewel of the Caribbean’ but the country’s labour leaders believe the resource is no panacea and are still uneasy over the future economic prospects for the country.
Several thousand of the country’s public servants gathered in the Capital City for a massive rally at the National Park for May Day 2018.
Addressing the gathering, Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Basil Williams — a longstanding trade union figure — said, “We don’t have to believe that oil and gas is a panacea because in addition to oil and gas we have stated that we are pursuing a green economy.” He said, however, “With oil and gas we will be taken over the top, so don’t worry about naysayers.”
According to Williams, with an O&G industry Guyana “will once again become the jewel of the Caribbean.”
He told the union leaders and public servants gathered for the Labour Day activity that government recognizes the need for consultation and public participation in the democratic process and, “with oil here, solidarity is even more important as we must be able to access and benefit from this burgeoning industry.”
Pointing to jobs being created as a result of O&G, Attorney General Williams was adamant that, “as a government we are working hard to ensure that our people reap the full benefits of our developing oil industry.”
Williams’ exuberance was however, a stark contrast to that of union leaders addressing public servants who spoke to the need for the Guyana economy to not remain dependent on a single resource.
General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) — one of the May Day Rally organisers — told those gathered in the National Park, “This notion that the discovery of oil and gas will be the panacea of the nation’s development must be revisited, for development cannot take place on a single resource; it requires the sustainable utilization of all and government must put systems to make it possible.”
According to Lewis, “Development is also hinged on looking out for the vulnerable and indigent in our society.”
President of the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Komal Chand, was also critical of the administration’s approach to the oil and gas sector and its relation to the Guyana economy.
Chand in his address to public servants posited the emerging oil and gas sector could prove to be a blessing, or, possibly, a curse. “The experiences in several countries have shown this,” he said, adding, “We contend that oil should not displace our historical economic sectors but rather it should consolidate our economic foundation for the years and generations of Guyanese ahead.”