By Kurt Campbell
Delivering remarks amid mixed views on her presence in Guyana, former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Kamla Persad – Bissessar Thursday night called on Guyanese lawmakers and stakeholders in the private and public sectors to get serious about protecting the country’s newly found oil resource.
Persad – Bissessar, who currently serves as T&T’s Opposition Leader, was invited by the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association(GMSA) to speak on lessons Trinidad and Tobago has learned on managing oil and gas revenues.
Delivering the featured address at the GMSA’s 23rd Awards Presentation and Dinner at the Pegasus Hotel, the feisty Trinidadian politician said she was sad and embarrassed to speak to Guyana about oil and gas management given what is happening in her own country.
Developments at home, she said, have called into question Trinidad’s management of its own oil revenues. She was at the time making reference to Trinidad’s failure to sustain its refinery with moves to close it down.
Persad – Bissessar, nonetheless, pressed ahead with offering her own advice for Guyana as it prepares for first oil in early 2020.
The preamble of her hour-long presentation was used to urge stakeholders to never lose sight of the importance of continuous exploration and to be watchful of both the upside and downside of having a state-owned oil company.
But the T&T Opposition Leader said it was of utmost importance that leadership at the Governmental level work on developing a national vision for the improvement of the lives of all citizens.
She said it was important that the Government pay attention to ensuring that it invests heavily in human development through education and training and through the improvement of health and infrastructure.
“Develop a national policy for the development of Guyana – all stakeholders – including those in the Government and opposition should sit now and get contributions from across the board on how to develop a national policy for the development of the country,” she said.
Persad – Bissessar told the gathering of local businesspersons and politicians that policy must focus on Guyana’s seven generations down and include a roadmap for ensuring their prosperity.
She also spoke to the need for robust legislation to protect the country’s patrimony and the need for Guyana to focus heavily on diversifying the economy and not solely rely on the black gold – oil.
“Do not put all your eggs in one basket in relying on the black gold,” she impressed.
The T&T Opposition Leader endorsed moves to put in place a sovereign wealth fund and commended the government for a step in the right direction.
She said the important thing now is to ensure the country gets the right model that works for it. That fund, the T&T Opposition Leader said must be seen as the insurance policy that it is and not as a cash cow.
The former T&T PM said there is a lot that Guyana can learn from Trinidad, urging that the two countries explore the great potential that exists for partnership.
She also encouraged locals to take advantage of the numerous training opportunities available in Trinidad so that they can truly represent the notion of local content in the emerging industry.
Government officials were notably absent from Thursday night’s awards but present were former President Donald Ramotar and other officials of the People’s Progressive Party Opposition.
Persad – Bissessar’s visit to Guyana comes months after Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley visited and renewed a cooperation agreement between the two countries.
Several persons including, a former government Minister, has taken to social media to question her presence here, pointing out her failure to visit while she served as Prime Minister and the hardships Guyanese exporters face in exporting to or using Trinidad as a transhipment port.