Prominent attorney Nigel Hughes, who first publicly floated a challenge to the passage of the December 21, 2018, No Confidence motion, has bemoaned the “wasted year” since, saying the country is celebrating oil production at a time when crucial laws to govern the sector are not in place.
The chaotic state of governance that flowed from multiple legal challenges to the No-Confidence Motion, which put the government in an interim mode and crippled the work of the legislature, has meant crucial laws needed to govern the oil and gas sector are absent.
Hughes, who first publicly challenged that 33 votes in the 65 seat National Assembly was not the majority needed to pass the No Confidence motion, on Tuesday night lamented the time that has lapsed has meant the country is without the needed laws in place to govern the oil and gas sector.
“We have lost the last year in this country by not passing a single Act of Parliament or a single a regulation to address and support the most (significant) economic asset we have which will be providing for us in the next 30 years – not a single piece of legislation passed on oil and gas.”
Mr Hughes was speaking at a symposium organised by the Youth Oil and Gas Association at the Theatre Guild in Georgetown.
“We have no Petroleum Commission, we have no regulations that govern how the oil is exploited…and we have started to produce oil, we’re celebrating that fact and we have no laws in place,” he stated.
“…we fight like little children as the ball, or whatever we’re fighting over, is rolling away from us.”
He added: “We spent an entire year, failing to prepare for the most important asset that is going to provide for us for the next 30 years.”
His frustration he said was over the magnitude of the oil finds offshore Guyana and what it signifies.
“What has been discovered in Guyana is larger than the collective of the political class, all the resident businessmen, lawyers, doctors, engineers – it is more than we ourselves can actually handle.
“And unless, like the alcoholic, we admit that we have messed up and failed to address…the one thing that is going to produce a future for all of us, then we have difficulty without approach and therefore we have to change the way we think, we have to change those aspects of our culture that are not productive.
Mr Hughes pointed to the massive economic transformation ahead while pointing to the current state of the country, and the leaps and bounds it must take.
“Right now we don’t have enough roads, we’re a basic country. One road from the airport, one road down the coast, one road to Berbice, one road to Essequibo. Seriously, we call ourselves a country?”
He urged the voting population to seriously consider the plans of those running for office and place their votes accordingly.
“Whoever we reward with the privilege of governing us must have a vision – a long-term vision- for the economic development of this country.
“…what we demand of you is a vision of how you are going to transform the country and articulate the method in which you are going to transform the country,” said Hughes.
“Unless we examine and interrogate every single thing an aspirant for leadership says, unless we integrate their economic policies to see if they make sense, we are going to get exactly what we deserve, by being ignorant,” he stated.
The first million barrels of oil left Guyana last weekend; this was apportioned to ExxonMobil. Guyana will sell its first three million barrels of oil by the end of July.
Hughes though said he was confident Guyana will be able to manage the oil and gas sector.
“Guyanese are generally globally known for our ability to learn quickly and to adapt to changing times; I have no doubt that we will not only adapt but that we would exceed all exceptions, but only if we do this together,” he stated.
“There is absolutely no doubt, at whatever percentage, this country will see a tremendous change. The question is how do we manage it?”
Hughes encourages that Guyanese look the obvious opportunities that come with this new sector.
“We are the only people who don’t seem excited about what is happening. Trinidadians are knocking themselves out to come to Guyana,” he stated.
Hughes said it is the government that must create an environment so businesses will become successful and flourish.