That Trinidad energy agreement: A major opportunity for Guyana – By Leonard Gildarie

Leonard Gildarie

 – By Leonard Gildarie

This past week Guyana signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with Trinidad and Tobago, opening a number of ways that that neighbouring Twin Island Republic can work with Guyana on developing the oil and gas industry.

There are criticisms and we will come to that.

This agreement, a non-binding one, is a golden opportunity for Guyana.

We have spoken about this before.

Trinidad has years and years of experience. They had managed to get some things right but a lot that went wrong too during their 100-plus years of experience in oil and gas. We can learn from them.         

We need to weigh each and every move but the lessons that are written on Trinidad’s blackboard are more than valuable. This is not a far off, mid-European country that is coming here.

We are literally neighbours, an hour on the plane.

We have thousands of Guyanese living there. Trinidad has been trading heavily with Guyana and its airline, Caribbean Airways, banks heavily on the Guyana market for its profits.

There are several well-known Trinidad companies here- Ansal McAl, Republic Bank, Massy…we can go on and on. MovieTowne is coming soon.

On our supermarket shelves, we have dozens and dozens of products.

Here is the problem we have had with T&T. Over the years, especially the immigration officers have been leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many Guyanese. We have been ridiculed, benched, scolded and made to wait for hours at the airport.

A number of Guyanese will tell you of being placed on flights back without leaving the airport. There is nothing wrong with any country protecting its borders. But disrespect, plain old disrespect, for people of a sister CARICOM state is something else.

Trinidad and Tobago is rated among the top three countries in this part of the hemisphere for its economy, high standards of living and wonderful infrastructure but unfortunately it has the reputation too as one of the most dangerous countries to live in, in this side of the hemisphere.

Trinidad’s PM, Dr. Keith Rowley, was with our President, David Granger, at State House on Wednesday where they signed the agreement.

Rowley was asked by reporters about our honey exports. There appears to be some health certificates issues with our honey and the market was all but closed. The explanation by the PM would not be easily bought by local businesses.

We have faithfully allowed T&T’s products, from cement to their oil, to snacks and beers, gladly.

Our local businesses have been complaining bitterly that the treatment has not been reciprocated although we are all part of CARICOM single market.

The issues of our products are not that they are not good, they are excellent…it is just we were not aggressive enough.

Today, our four billion barrels and counting of oil has left us in a position of power- bargaining power that has to be wielded at the negotiating table,

I was at Marriott on Friday and the lobby area was busy with officials from China, Europe, Trinidad and North America.

People are coming. There are opportunities.

In Trinidad, the evidence of oil related activities are very much there. From shiny gas plants to the refineries, the industrial zone in Couva is a sight to behold

Yet with all of the resources, Trinidad is struggling now with high crimes and a foreign exchange problem.

Indeed, Dr. Rowley assured reporters Wednesday that his country is not in a bind. The country has built up a strong private sector and it is only a matter of time before it gets back on track.

So we have a MoU which caters for a whole host of collaborations, from training, use of facilities in both countries, the identification and development of projects and the lists goes on.

We are in the midst of a heavy debate about our capacity, local content and a host of other issues, including the passage of update legislations that will deal with the regulatory aspect of the sector.

I submit therefore and agree with our leaders, even with former President Bharrat Jagdeo who said this past week that we cannot turn our backs on the opportunities that will come from T&T.

However, we will have to be careful and control the pace of our engagements.

Constantly, our folks will have to ask what are we getting from this?

Our country must benefit. There must be consultations and transparency in the process.

We have to demand for every investor that comes here, five or 10 of us are trained or involved in a collaborative effort.

That is what true local content footprint is.

Some experts are estimating that oil and gas demands are likely to diminish in 30 years because of energy alternatives that will be developed.

If that is true, our opportunity to capitalize from the oil and gas sector is limited.

We have to grab what we can and ensure that Guyana comes out on top.

I am disappointed that no politician is preaching more about emulating Lee Kuan Yew, the former leader of Singapore, who is credited with transforming his country from a  third world to first world in a single generation.
Surely there must be more to office than party control.

The Trinidad agreement will come as Guyana moves to expand its relations with China and Barbados too. Barbados too, unfortunately, has been arrogant in its treatment of our people.

But we will not return the favour. That is not who we are.

We prefer to build strategic relationships.

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Comments

  • Trevor  On September 26, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Where are the jobs? the exchange rate is still hovering at GY$210.
    Again, where are the jobs? Many of my friends have suddenly departed Guyana for Barbados, in spite of the economic recession there.

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