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Guyana's local entrepreneurs lack faith in Govt.'s ability to manage oil industry




By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell

Petroleumworld 06 19 2018

Much attention has been given to the lopsided contract that the Government of Guyana signed with ExxonMobil. The focus has been on the fact that Guyana's share seems disadvantageous. However, businessmen appear more concerned with the fact that the contract does not provide adequately for local content, and that the government does not seem ready to handle an oil industry.

A few businessmen recently spoke to this newspaper on the grounds of anonymity. This is following a recent forum hosted by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce (GCCI) where some entrepreneurs openly expressed worry over some issues directly linked to the oil industry—including the delayed establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

The forum was hosted at Duke Lodge, and Charles Ramson Jr. was the featured speaker.

At that forum, one businessman even highlighted the fact that the public, under successive governments, hardly ever knows the state of the Lotto Fund. He then posited the likelihood of similar situation occurring with the SWF.

Since then, this newspaper spoke to several business owners who have differing views about Guyana's preparedness for first oil in 2020 and the government's ability to overlook the process there.

One very prominent businessman said, “I think it is time we move away from the contract. Yes, we could have gotten a better deal. But the government has already said that it would not be renegotiating. There is no sense flogging a dead horse. What we have to fight for now is our local content. We also have to hold our government accountable”

The businessman said that there is much to be done and the government is moving at a very slow pace. “I find it hard to believe that we will be remotely ready by 2020.”

He then pointed out that the issues that need to be fixed in Guyana for businesses to thrive, “go beyond the issues directly tied to the oil sector. The fact that I feel the need to speak to you off-the-record tells a story. I am not confident that my comments will just be viewed as constructive criticism and that I wouldn't be victimized.”

The businessman said that politicians in general, both government and opposition, need to become more mature “they also need to work together to secure a better future and the time is now.”

Another businessman said, “The fact that our Government seems to be a walkover does not help us to put much confidence in it. They allowed ExxonMobil to have its way with the contract and they are allowing Exxon to do what it wants and call it local content.”

Other businessmen expressed similar sentiments, while a few others are convinced, “the government is doing its best under the circumstances.”
The argument supporting that stance is that “this is still a very young government with mostly fairly new politicians. Then these politicians are faced with building a sector that is completely new to not only them, but Guyana.”

Immediately following a recent press conference hosted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, he told Kaieteur News that most businessmen are complaining about the state of affairs in various sectors.”

“They are all complaining; few of them have anything good to say. They all think this government is failing them,” the former President emphasised.
Also, former opposition Member of Parliament, Charles Ramson Jr., recently called on the government to consider legislative protection for Guyanese seeking to benefit from the local content obligations of oil companies.

He too said that he spoke to several businessmen who complained of not being given contracts from ExxonMobil. Ramson said, “Our businessmen are being overlooked while ExxonMobil gives out catering, meet and greet and brokerage contracts to companies that are not owned by Guyanese”.


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Story by from Kaieter News
06 19 2018

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