Finance Minister downplays importance of local content legislation

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

At a time when local stakeholders are actively pushing for a local content policy to be in place ahead of next year’s scheduled first oil, Finance Minister Winston Jordan said such legislation is not important.

Speaking at a weekly press conference held on Friday by the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) – the largest party in the APNU faction of the coalition Government – Jordan pointed out that activities in the oil and gas sector are moving full steam ahead without that critical piece of legislation.

“While legislation is important, we should not make it the be-all and end-all. Many companies that are coming here aren’t waiting for local content and other legislation – they are moving ahead. And if various pieces of legislation represented the level of development, Guyana would be a very developed country because [we have] got legislation virtually for everything,” he posited.

Nevertheless, the Finance Minister explained that Director of the Department of Energy, Dr Mark Bynoe has indicated that the local content legislation is all about finished and will be available for public consumption fairly shortly.

But Jordan went on to insist that, “The proof of the pudding is always in the eating and how we implement the legislation. Do we have the bodies to implement the legislation, the systems, and so forth, in place? So yes, local content [is] absolutely important, absolutely vital that we get it but don’t wait for local content legislation. Use existing legislation to ensure that we get parts of the pie while we putting in the local content legislation so that we could get a fair, level playing field about how we operate with nationals and foreigners as they come into our country”.

In recent years, however, pressure has been mounting from stakeholders, including the diplomatic community here, for the coalition Government to have a local content policy in place so that Guyanese can benefit from the budding oil and gas industry.

Local Private Sector bodies and other stakeholder agencies had expressed dissatisfaction with the slothfulness in which the local content laws are being developed. Calls are constantly being made for the policy to be finalised before first oil in the first quarter of 2020, when United States oil giant, ExxonMobil is slated to commence production in the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana.

Back in May, however, Dr. Bynoe had told reporters at a press conference that the local content policy would be ready long before production commences.

The local content policy would guide the State in guarding against local companies being bypassed for contracts and services while foreign companies and workers are favoured.