‘Role remains’ – no scaling back on work for Exxon’s Business Centre with new local content laws

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The ExxonMobil controlled Centre for Local Business Development (CLBD) says its role remains and there will be no scaling back of its work now that the government has put in place new local content laws targeting the country’s nascent oil and gas sector.

Opened in 2017, long before the U.S oil giant made its final investment decision in Guyana, the CLBD has been a demonstration of ExxonMobil’s commitment to local content and leading the charge for locals to build capacity and benefit from opportunities in the sector.

Guided by the previous local content policy, as inept as it appeared, economist and Director of the Centre Natasha Gaskin-Peters told the News Room that the new law will guide its work going forward.

“The centre will continue to build the competitiveness of local business and welcomes the local content law.

“There will be no scaling back of our work… our role remains and it’s really more work for us,” she told the News Room during a virtual interview on Wednesday.

The Local Content Bill was passed in the National Assembly on December 29, 2021 and signed into law by President Irfaan Ali on December 31, 2021.

It spells out clearly who a Guyanese is and what constitutes a Guyanese business.

Some of the Centre employees completed First Aid and CPR training.

“We would have been guided by the previous policy which talks about a local company having 51% ownership by Guyanese personnel. Of course, the new law stipulates additional details in terms of management and we will be guided by the new law,” Gaskin-Peters related.

Importantly, the centre currently has a register of over 3, 400 Guyanese businesses but the law now makes it a legal requirement for local businesses to be registered at a government-controlled Local Content Secretariat.

These two registers, as explained in the Local Content Act, will deal specifically with the procurement of goods, and secondly, the provision of skills and employment.

To this end, Gaskin-Peters explained that while ExxonMobil sought to build capacity and used its portal to advertise procurement opportunities, “the centre was never involved in the procurement process… we just do the advertising.”

She said too that the centre will seek to encourage those on its register to be registered under the government regulations.

The law also outlines a schedule which sets out targets of benefits for Guyanese in 40 key sectors to be implemented by the end of 2022.

“We are examining those sectors to see how the companies registered with us fall into those sectors and how advanced they are.

Economist and Director of the Centre Natasha Gaskin-Peters along with the News Room’s Kurt Campbell during a virtual interview.

“The training is free for businesses but a cost to ExxonMobil and its partners… it really shows Exxon’s commitment,” she added.

Since opening in July 2017, the centre has conducted well over 3,000 oil and gas seminars, cultivated hundreds of oil and gas vendors, and delivered Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) programmes to over 220 businesses.

The centre builds the capacity of local businesses to ensure they meet customer and other stakeholder needs using ISO 9001 as well as the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Q1 program.

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