Guyana: Oil and Our Discipline – By Leonard Gildarie

The Story within the Story…Oil and our discipline 

Leonard Gildarie

 – By Leonard Gildarie

It is a new week in the New Year and I have great hopes for this country. The last few days have been eventful. The US is facing cold and snow the likes of which have not been seen for decades. In fact, the sunshine state of Florida was dumped by snow that has not been seen there for two decades.

The temperature at the time of writing yesterday in some states in the US was zero, with wind chill in the minus figures.

I am not sure if there is a real understanding of what is happening in the world.  

Climate change is here to stay. Droughts, mega hurricanes and the ‘bomb cyclone’ that hit parts of the US in the last few days are but some of the effects that are bound to be with us for a while.

Our habit of taking from the environment without thinking of the long-term effects is coming home to roost now.

In New Delhi, India, authorities there are battling heavy smog brought on by pollution, dust and other factors. That situation is perplexing the Government and reducing the quality of life for citizens there.

Our attitudes to the environment have continued to bedevil us. We have built five overhead walkways on the East Bank Demerara highway, between Houston to Diamond. They are not fully commissioned as yet although persons are using the one at the Harbour Bridge.

I could not believe my eyes this past week in seeing persons still attempting to cross the roads despite the presence of the walkway in front of M&M. One man was seen making a mad dash through rapidly proceeding traffic.

In the US, in New York, when the snow falls, you have to keep the driveway and curb free of snow. God forbid if someone falls on your driveway because of snow. You could be fined and sued for medical damages for the victim.

In Guyana, it was announced Friday that ExxonMobil and its partners have made its biggest oil find to date in the Stabroek block. The amount estimated is said to be over 3.2B barrels …similar to what Trinidad and Tobago took almost 100 years to pump. As at 2013, Trinidad’s oil reserves were over 720M barrels.

In other words, we have one of the largest finds in this part of the world in the last decade or so.

I could not help but think of the pedestrian that ran across the road at Peter’s Hall, even knowing that there is an overhead pass. We have to prepare ourselves like never before. Something is happening and we have to be ready.

Currently, quietly at the city’s hotels, there is a constant flow of executives from oil companies around the world visiting. They come from Trinidad, the US, Britain…all over.

There are opportunities to be had. What are we doing?

I was in Trinidad back in July for vacation and made a special effort to visit the refineries there.

I can’t explain the profound emotions.

Trinidad’s oil is running out and it is dependent on its natural gas for its revenues.

The little country of over 1.3 million persons has managed to become a financial powerhouse for the region, and is ranked third behind Canada and the US in the Americas when it comes to economy.

Despite being on wobbly legs from the fall in oil prices, Trinidad has managed to build a world class manufacturing sector with steel, cement, and Nestle having a presence in that Twin Island Republic.

The infrastructure is incredible if you forget the congestion.

There are overpasses and five-star hotels with state-of-the-art stadiums and quite a number of malls.

Trinidad is now complaining that its deals with foreign oil companies were bad, and the country received the short end of the stick.

We have some good things going for us. ExxonMobil has moved rapidly after the initial discovery in 2015 in the Liza1 field and five years later will have production on stream.

I repeat again, we can’t be like the pedestrian who ran across the road despite a new overhead walkway built specially for him.

There are too many cases of best practices and lessons to be learnt.

As the administration has admitted, we are stuck with the oil deal that we are getting.

We have to make do and single out the transformative projects that can forever change the landscape of this country.

We have some good things going for us. There is a solid platform to build on.

Gold is holding its own, and rice, despite the 2015 loss of the Venezuela market, has managed to attract several new customers, including Cuba and Mexico.

Our sovereign wealth fund, to put the proceeds of oil and other natural resources in, has to be established.

We have to seriously think of building our capacity. It will be the single biggest investment in this country….investing in our people.

We need engineers, cooks, logistics personnel, welders, IT specialists, the list goes on.

The University of Guyana has been geared in this direction. We have to start examining, urgently, the curriculum at our schools to fine-tune them in readiness for oil and gas.

However, through it all, we cannot forget, or leave by the wayside, the sectors which have kept us alive.

We have to build on our progress. Agriculture, mining, our services sector…they have to up their game. Our lands are running out on the coastland for housing and agriculture.

This administration and future ones will do well to think seriously of developing long-term plans to shift to the highway and more in the hinterland communities.

However, the change that will come from oil and gas will not only require us to introduce new laws and hire experts to help us build capacity, but it will demand a new way of thinking from us.

We will have to be disciplined and be ready to adhere to new systems.

Bribery, corruption and poor service should have no place in our new configuration.

I saw in Kaieteur News yesterday that 31 cops were kicked out of the force last year for wrongdoing. A number of them are before the courts. We have to adopt a zero tolerance approach of cops taking bribes, be it at the roadblocks or at the police station.

The cops have to know we are watching them closely. Nobody is above the law and we have to do better.

As a people, discipline will have to be our watchword. We will have to sacrifice a few years at UG to improve our qualifications.

In other words, as we move forward, we have to be disciplined in the first few years as we start pumping the oil. We will never get enough proceeds from oil and judging from world events, it will not be around or worth as much in another 30 years. We have to make hay while the sun shines.

Kaieteur News: Jan 07, 2018 – By Leonard Gildarie

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