Benn concerned about foreigners taking up positions Guyanese qualified for

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Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn on Friday said there will be an investigation into foreigners who come into the country to work offshore in the oil and gas sector.

The minister’s concern is that many of those persons are brought to Guyana to work in skilled positions for which many Guyanese qualify. He said the possibility that Guyanese can replace some of those foreigners warrants an investigation. That investigation will be conducted without disrupting the operations offshore he told the News Room.

ExxonMobil, the U.S oil giant leading the offshore activities, had previously reported that just over 50% of its workforce is Guyanese following its first discovery in 2015 and the production of first oil in early 2020.

With 25 discoveries to date, the country’s oil resource is now 10 billion oil-equivalent barrels with Guyana likely producing approximately 330,000 barrels of oil per day by 2022.

Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn [News Room photo/ November 23, 2020]
But many skilled Guyanese and equipped local businesses have complained of being bypassed with preference given to foreigners and foreign companies in the sector even as the government continues to work on finalising a local content policy.

Last week, the News Room received reports that many of the offshore workers were also without the necessary work permits or employment visas with no taxes paid to the country.

When asked about this, Benn could not immediately provide any information or an update on the number of permits issued but promised to provide the information subsequently.

When contacted on the allegations, ExxonMobil responded through its Public and Government Affairs Advisor Janelle Persaud and said “all employees of Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited have the necessary permits to work onshore and offshore Guyana. We are committed to following all applicable laws and regulations related to our operations in Guyana.”

But sources have indicated that some of the foreign offshore employees without work permits were working for Exxon’s sub-contractors and not Exxon itself.

Immigration services only offer the standard work permit for employment in Guyana which covers any non-national wishing to work for a company in the country, and it lasts for three years.

Guyana also offers a business visa but it doesn’t allow a person to be employed within the country. The approval process can take anywhere from a week to a month and costs almost $30,000.

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