“It’s just a MoU… It is just an agreement to cooperate. It is not a secret document. In fact, it was vetted by the Department of Energy and the Foreign Affairs Ministry and I will ask that the document to be released.”
These were the words of President David Granger as he sought to quell the concerns raised by local stakeholders that, among other things, Government should hold off on singing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) on the oil and gas sector until polices have been outlined in the said document to ensure that local businesses could benefit.
The President was speaking at the sidelines of a swearing in ceremony, when he explained that his Government has no problem in releasing the document and will seek to do so soon.
The Head of State also said that the MOU could be signed soon. According to him, T&T Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley was expected to arrive in Guyana on Wednesday morning but did not.
He said whenever another date is set for the Prime Minister of that country to come to Guyana, they will move ahead with the signing of the agreement that will see shared mutual cooperation being enhanced.
It was only recently reported that a MoU on energy cooperation between Guyana and Trinidad is expected to be signed in the coming weeks.
Sections of the media reported that T&T Energy Minister, Franklin Khan confirmed this. While he did not go into details of the agreement, he said that would be disclosed after the signing.
Khan said Trinidad is willing to provide assistance to the Guyana Government as the country prepares for first oil.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that T&T is seeking to get the Guyana Government to take a stake in the Petrotrin refinery, and in this way acquire a strategic asset.
The proposal is to ensure that Guyana gets its share of oil from ExxonMobil closer to home, and in this way employment would be provided to people of both countries.
Earlier this week, Petrotrin’s Board confirmed plans to close the company’s refinery in October in a move which will cause the loss of 1700 permanent jobs.
It was following this announcement that former Prime Minister and current Opposition Leader of T&T, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, said her country should attempt to partner with Guyana to save Petrotrin.
But following this suggestion, members of civil society had come out encouraging Government, the Private Sector and citizens at large to guard against what is being described as a clear attempt by that Caribbean country to monopolise opportunities in Guyana’s emerging oil and gas sector.
The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) subsequently came out asking Government to hold off on signing the MoU with T&T, asking that its members be consulted first, as they fear that this could possibly open the flood gates for foreign companies to take over the oil industry.
President of the GCCI, Deodat Indar said Guyanese businesses are already being sidestepped and instead contracts have been awarded to foreign-based companies to benefit from the local oil sector. But the GCCI wants the local Private Sector to get its “piece of the pie.”
Outspoken social activist and chartered accountant Christopher Ram has said that company’s history must first be studied. Ram said both countries belong to the same common economic area and have a vested interest in ensuring growth in the entire bloc. As such, he thinks the David Granger-led Administration can cooperatively work with not only Trinidad, but other countries, to the benefit of Guyana.
However, the chartered accountant said his major concern is what led to the failure of Petrotrin. This, he opined, had to do partly with corruption and partly with inefficiencies.