Oil needs ‘a whole new architecture’ of public sector workers

Professor Scott says ‘troubling’ that public sector reform in comatose state


By Neil Marks

Public sector reform is in a comatose state despite years of work and an investment of millions of US dollars, Professor Michael E. Scott, who also serves as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, has said.

He indicated that this was troubling at a time when Guyana is about to experience radical transformation with the game-changing oil and gas sector.

Speaking of the oil and gas sector, he said it has the capacity to reconfigure the entire social system –  economically, institutionally, politically, legally and environmentally.

“I consider it rather troubling at this critical time that Guyana’s socio-economic landscape is pursuing radical and economic change, there is no attempt to re-consider, re-focus, re-configure and re-position an effective and efficient public sector to deliver services to meet the requirements of the oncoming reality,” Scott said Wednesday.

He was at the time delivering the first 2017 Professorial Lecture of the University. Professor Scott deals with Academic Engagement at the University.

He said there has been an investment of over US$300 million over the years – funded by the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the British government and others – towards public sector reform – but he said that process seems to have been stagnated.

“Despite years of reforms and initiatives, it is clear public sector reform is comatose. This presents significant challenges,” he stated.

He said the state of reform begs the question of the readiness to facilitate this game-changing sector and all its implications.

According to Professor Scott, the public sector serves the interest of Guyanese and is responsible for managing the conditions for investment. In fact, he said in the public sector’s bosom is the policy decisions, the laws, the concessions, and the rules pertaining to the initiation of the oil and gas sector.

Scott said that at this critical and historic juncture, the public sector needs to give assurance in a meaningful way of its readiness to facilitate and manage the new and significant game-changing sector.

“A whole new architecture of personnel is needed,” he declared.

He added: “The public sector must be ready to set, pursue and adjust goals, re-configure its services and upgrade its service delivery to meet the new reality in the economic sector.”

Professor Scott summarised the public sector to mean state and government activities of not only government ministries and departments, but also semi-autonomous government agencies, statutory government oversight bodies, State trading and investment bodies, State enterprises and in the Disciplined Forces.

Over the years, he said no change has been obvious in the public sector other than those that are structural. And so, he questioned how appropriate the Guyanese public sector and its business practices is to usher in and facilitate the veritable game-changing sector that oil and gas is.

He reasoned that the offshore business of oil and gas will resonate onshore and so public sector rules, regulations, laws, and policies “must be ready.”

“The public sector architecture must be capable and efficient to service the game changer in what is increasingly a localised policy environment, where the local and global can hardly be differentiated.”

He pointed to the fact that the sector would be completely new to Guyana as oil and gas is an extractive sector of a different type.

“It is at an offshore location and for Guyanese, it is called Black gold. It is drilled and pumped, it is not mined, as we are accustomed to with our pork-knockers and miners.

“There are large players capable of accelerating economic upturn, capable of generating s we know the Dutch disease, capable of spawning a black  gold parallel economy, as we’ve seen in other parts of the world, capable of undermining public processes and structures, if the public sector and its service business are not strengthened,” he stated.

The University of Guyana’s Professorial Lectures provide newly appointed professors with the opportunity to inform colleagues, the campus community and the general public of their work to date, including current research and future plans. The inaugural Professorial Lecture was held in 2015.

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