Int’l expert urges Gov’t to transform oil revenues into assets

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Sir Paul Collier, one of the international experts who met with Government ministers at a high-level caucus, urged the Government to put systems in place to transform oil revenues into assets, the Ministry of the Presidency (MotP) said.

Collier, a Professor at Blavatnik School of Public Policy at the University of Oxford also urged the Government to focus on proper policy choices and decisive national leadership.

“He also spoke of the importance of transforming oil revenues into assets; noting that oil resource presents numerous opportunities but the Government must develop a sound strategy to transform those opportunities into tangible benefits for the Guyanese population,” the Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

The high-level caucus, which was organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources, met at State House to discuss a blueprint for Guyana’s oil and gas sector.

During the discussions, President David Granger said that while many people are dazzled by the prospects of petroleum wealth, there is a need for greater understanding and education on how the sector operates.

He made it clear that even as the sector is about to take off, his Government will not veer from the ‘green’ development trajectory nor will it stray from delivering on pre-petroleum promises such as removal of the development disparity between the coast and the hinterland, creating an education nation and a more cohesive Guyana and empowering people, all of which will translate to a ‘good life’.
Scenes from the caucus
The Head of State is quoted as saying, “We need to educate ourselves as a Cabinet, as a Government and as population as a whole. We have to take a sober approach to the exploitation of this valuable resource. We need to create the organisation, the structure that will manage this resource and even now, as I speak, we are in a state of transition. When the Government came into office in May 2015, it was literally at the same time, almost at the same date, that the announcement of the petroleum find was made. So, we are still putting in place an organisation that is capable of managing this resource and that is one of the reasons why we need this type of advice.”

The core objectives of the forum, which was held at the Baridi Benab at State House, were to build awareness on key issues relating to the oil sector; frame the country’s strategic choices to each of the key issues, to align those choices and to provide a blueprint for a sector roadmap. It brought together a mix of international and local experts on natural resources, governance, fiscal policies, finance and economic development.

The high-level Caucus brought together a mix of international and local experts on natural resources, governance, fiscal policies, finance and economic development.

During the deliberations, there were recurring themes such as economic diversification, education, technology and infrastructural development, all of which were identified as priority areas to be pursued in order to transform the country’s socio-economic landscape.  President Granger pointed to the need for legislation and strong oversight institutions to protect citizens from the adverse aspects that could flow from the exploitation of this resource.

“We need to mobilise, not only national will but national resources. This is going to be the single largest industry in Guyana. As a country of just about three-quarters of a million people, we need to ensure that our resources are mobilised so that every Guyanese understands the importance of petroleum… We have to protect the rights of investors by establishing the institutions to ensure that there is no abuse or misuse of this resource. Without the institutions, without the judiciary, without the oversight by the National Assembly and without prudent management by the Executive, much of what we are attempting to do will fail,” he said.

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman in his remarks, also highlighted a number of priority areas for the Government such as poverty eradication, development of hydroelectricity and solar farms, palm oil farms and agriculture in the pursuit of reclaiming the country’s position as ‘breadbasket of the Caribbean’.

“I believe we have suffered from diminished confidence that we are less than capable of managing what is to be bequeathed and shared with us. We need a synthesis of ideas that form themselves into a practical and attainable plan of action… We don’t have to wait on production to see the benefits of petroleum and so I suggest we start at a 20-year vision and plan. Where should we be by 2035? And what must we do to achieve this? What steps should be taken?” the Minister said.

Meanwhile, Legal Adviser in the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy, Sir Shridath Ramphal reminded the Caucus of the ongoing controversy and the hurdle that the country still has to overcome. “We must not proceed as if that challenge does not exist. At the outset, we cannot afford the luxury of running ahead of ourselves,” he said.

Sir Shridath also commended the Government of Guyana’s efforts which resulted in this matter being referred to the International Court of Justice. “What is at stake is two-thirds of the country and if Venezuela had its way, almost all of our maritime space… It is a colossal step forward that Guyana has gotten to Geneva. We sought a judicial settlement for over 50 years and it is finally in hand,” he said.

Other presenters at the forum included former United States Ambassador to Venezuela, Ambassador Patrick Duddy, Dr Valerie Marcel, an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, former Manager of the Chilean Sovereign Wealth Fund, Eric Parrado, Peter Harrington, a Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and Professor Paloma Mohamed from the University of Guyana.

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