I admit that during my tenure as Minister of Natural Resources one of my main preoccupations was speeding up the exploration campaign of Guyana’s hydrocarbon basin with the aim of timely extraction and production once commercial discoveries were proven.
But concurrently, there were equally focused efforts to bring a reasonable understanding, at various levels, of what it takes to manage and operate in an economy to be heavily dominated by oil and gas production. The initial key targets were decision and policy makers, state agencies technicians, business leaders and a range of other stakeholders so that they can better grasp what is expected of them when oil arrives.
I make this assertion before posing the question – are we ready for prime time? Or more specifically, are we ready for an economy where the oil and gas sector can be the tallest pillar? And is to answer the obvious question: what did you do to prepare for commercial oil production in Guyana?
To elaborate, I wish to cite a few examples: we worked with the Commonwealth Secretariat on examining and remedying the legislative framework; the UNDP on preparing us to avoid the resource curse as well as preliminary work on a sovereign fund for oil wealth; the US government on managing our oil resources; the Canadian government on orienting our private sector for an oil economy and fertilizing what is now the Guyana Oil and Gas Association; the Norwegians and the US on preparing Guyana for EITI readiness; and Trinidad and Tobago on technical collaboration. These were just some of the engagements to prepare Guyana. Importantly, many of these initiatives were either continued or reformed by the succeeding dispensation. A most positive step!
Notwithstanding those earlier multi-pronged approaches, we were (and still are) doing catch up to be fully ready for oil. Some today with the advantage of hindsight will say enough was not done given that the geology for decades pointed to a well-endowed offshore hydrocarbon basin. And their views cannot be ignored.
The reality is the reality. With limited resources there was so much realistically could have been done ahead of a commercial discovery curve. However, not lacking was the political will and national enthusiasm to get our nation in shape for this new, exciting bonanza sector.
And so with all that we have now confirmed, and with all the loud buzz and much hype about March 2020 when the first barrel of oil is pumped up and piped into a tanker for refining, we are racing against time. So putting our house in full order cannot be deferred nor delayed.
And yes, this is not the task of the government or the oil companies alone. It must be an inclusive, participatory national project to be embraced rather than be ridiculed.
As a reminder of that urgency, last Thursday was another positive day for Guyana’s and ExxonMobil’s foray into the oil and gas sector (http://news.exxonmobil.com/press-release/exxonmobil-announces-fifth-discovery-offshore-guyana) and puts on the front of all front-burners the question: are we ready for prime time?
In a series of columns, I will look at various facets of this most compelling question and do hope to add to a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities we will stumble upon in the coming months and years.
The writer Robert M. Persaud (robertmpersaud.com) is the Former Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment and now the Managing Consultant of Georgetown-based Ipower Consultancy. Send feedback to: [email protected]
The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of OilNOW.