As the new Government continues to transition into political office, serious efforts are being made to establish an adequate and efficient structure that would see citizens enjoying the maximum benefits from the country’s oil-rich resources.
Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, during a press briefing on Friday, made some crucial announcements in relation to the administrative, technical and regulatory aspects of the oil and gas sector.
According to Jagdeo, several moves are being made immediately to ensure that the oil and gas sector is effectively managed; one of which includes the setting up of a Petroleum Commission within the next six months.
“What you need is technical oversight with some of the best brains. We hope that Guyanese will heavily be involved there.”
Jagdeo also disclosed that the President and Vice President will have oversight for the Natural Resources sector.
Additionally, he said that the Department of Energy, which was set up under the previous Government to handle the oil and gas sector, will now be brought under the Ministry of Natural Resources.
He explained that the technical personnel will be allowed to manage the sector, but the Office of the President and the Minister of Natural Resources will give more policy input.
Further, Jagdeo disclosed that an Advisory Board on Petroleum will be set up to advise the President on all matters relating to the sector.
According to Jagdeo, the Government wants to see Guyanese involved in the management of these areas and at the same time, benefit from the resources flowing from the sector, adding, “that philosophy will cut across the entire Government”.
In relation to the Local Content Policy, Jagdeo highlighted that there were inputs made by various stakeholders before, which would have been good for Guyanese and at the same time ExxonMobil would not have been affected, but these were never taken on board by the previous Government.
He explained that at the moment, the Department of Energy does not have any draft legislation on local content in place, only “position papers”.
The Vice President said that the Government will now have to begin the process of having the necessary local content legislation in place which the oil and gas companies would be mandated to follow.
Jagdeo said the President will meet with the entire Guyanese community directly to garner their opinions on local content “so that people will be free to express their views”.
According to Jagdeo, the Government will come up with “the best technical input” before it arrives at a negotiating brief. Once this is cleared at the policy level, the Government will then seek to engage directly with ExxonMobil.
Jagdeo said that the PPP/C Government intends to address the issues of local content frontally and will take all the necessary steps to ensure that Guyanese benefit and are included in the development of the oil and gas sector.
He noted that the discriminatory pay scale between Guyanese and non-Guyanese in the same category in the oil and gas sector must be put to an end by Exxon and its sub-contractors.
The Vice President asserted that the Government wants ExxonMobil to do well as a company here, “but Guyanese must share this prosperity” adding, “it is not sustainable otherwise”.
Jagdeo said that the Government will insist that that happens. “That will be the guiding principles with all our engagements with ExxonMobil and subsequently, once we start looking at the other contracts; all of them”.
The VP highlighted that large numbers of Guyanese will be trained to take advantage of the oil and gas opportunities and ExxonMobil will be required to contribute to this effort. In regard, he expressed that “the paltry sum of US$300,000” which Exxon had allocated for training is inadequate and must be reviewed.