With new wealth, Guyanese must be allowed to overcome ‘shame of poverty’ – Mottley


By Vishani Ragobeer


With nearly 30 profitable oil discoveries offshore Guyana and a hive of new business activity onshore, Guyana is poised for great development and Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley emphasises that Guyanese must be allowed to benefit.

Guyana has been banking on these discoveries and the resulting increase in business activity, to help advance developmental efforts and promote citizens’ prosperity.

The oil discoveries, in particular, have been contentious with some arguing that the country should not exploit the oil resources because of the harmful environmental impact.

The Barbadian Prime Minister has argued that the conversation on development and exploiting natural resources, particularly for developing countries like Guyana and others in the Caribbean, is complex.

Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley speaking at the opening of the 2022 International Energy Conference at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown (Photo: Keno George/February 15, 2022)

She posited that developing countries must now be able to exploit their resources to help them ‘catch up’, more so since these developing countries have been beset by numerous challenges stemming from their exploitation and colonisation by developed countries.

Exacerbating these traditional challenges is the inherent vulnerability to natural disasters like flooding and hurricanes. And so, she does not agree that Guyana, for example, should not produce its oil but to ensure that the fossil fuels produced are offset with more renewable energy and forest saving plans.

“Guyana…has endured much and you cannot move from being a highly indebted poor country without being given the opportunity [to bring] along your people who have suffered the indignity of that poverty for decades,” Prime Minister Mottley said at the opening ceremony of the 2022 International Energy Conference on Tuesday.

This massive conference is being held throughout this week at the Marriott Hotel in Kingston, Georgetown. It centers on charting a sustainable energy future.

That sustainable energy future, Prime Minister Mottley argued, is one that must be pursued with due cognisance of the socioeconomic realities of countries.

She reasoned that it is not a simple decision for smaller countries to abandon new wealth without first advancing citizens’ interests. And she said that these smaller countries must be part of the international decision-making fora to emphasise why their interests are crucial and to show how they intend on advancing sustainable development.

“…We have reached a point where global discussions must now address these issues as to how we transition,” she said.

At this same opening ceremony, Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali vowed that Guyana will neither back down from its aggressive pursuit of the energy sector nor its commitment to climate change. And he emphasised that property for Guyanese at the soonest is the plan for Guyana’s oil funds.

President Dr Irfaan Ali (left), Prime Minister Mottley (center) and First Lady of Guyana Arya Ali at one of the booths at the expo (Photo: Keno George/February 16, 2022)


Even as she contended that developing countries must be allowed to develop their needs, Prime Minister Mottley also floated the idea of a new renewable energy fund in the Caribbean. This fund, she explained, could see the new oil producers using about 10 to 15 per cent of their revenues to finance renewable energy initiatives.

Renewable energy initiatives will help to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels that release harmful gases into the environment. And for context, Guyana is pursuing a renewable energy mix of natural gas, solar, wind and hydropower.

The Prime Minister also talked up the need for more equitable financing options particularly for countries plagued by natural disasters.

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