OIL: Guyana’s surprise potential wealth —, but where is the master plan? – By Ray Chickrie

Guyana’s surprise arrival, but where is the master plan?

Guyana is one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and many of its citizens fled to Suriname, Trinidad, Barbados, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom or elsewhere to escape wretched poverty and repugnant violence. However, with the recent mega oil and gas discoveries offshore, Guyana is set to produce over one million barrels of oil daily.

Strangely, after three years of this development, the politicians, civil society, government (coalition) or the opposition haven’t put out a “Dubai Plan” for Guyana so as to inform citizens of exactly how the billions of US oil dollars are going to be spent.   

Guyana has few institutions to manage this wealth and an oil contract with ExxonMobil has been characterized as “lopsided.” The government is looking inept in dealing with the US giant. All this oil and gas wealth can end up in the hands of a handful of corrupt leaders, their families and friends, as in Angola, Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Then comes Guyana tribalism, with the involvement of the CIA. During the Cold War, the US instigated racial tension between East Indians, whose ancestors came from India, and descendants of enslaved Africans. How will these two groups get a fair deal in post Guyana oil surge?

The decaying City Hall, Georgetown, epitomizes the corruption in Guyana

Guyana on the World Stage: South/South Cooperation

Guyana has emerged on the world stage, and Foreign Minister Greenidge is putting out that message. The country has been getting many high profile visits. The foreign ministry will have to double its staff with qualified skills. Foreign affairs will resonate around climate change, territorial integrity, sustainability, South/South and triangular cooperation.

In the next decade, the Cooperate Republic of Guyana will double the amount of embassies it currently has overseas. Foreign countries will double the amount of embassies in Georgetown, the diplomatic capital of CARICOM. Guyana will increase engagement in multilateral forums like the United Nations, CARICOM, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Commonwealth, ACP and the Non-Aligned Movement, and especially to confront Venezuela’s renewed claim to over 50 percent of Guyana’s territory. For example, speaking to two West African diplomats at the UN at an OIC hosted reception, they knew little of Guyana, much less the Guyana/Venezuela conflict.

Now that Guyana has emerged on the world stage, where is the grand vision? Where is the master plan to modernize and transform Guyana into the “richest oasis in the corner of South America,” as one paper puts it? The next general election will be held in 2020, that’s not too far away. Yet, we haven’t seen how the PPP and PNC will spend billions of dollars on infrastructure, education, health, agriculture, tourism, security and economic diversification. Where are the mega projects?

Frontier Infrastructure: Regional Airports, Bridges, and Rail Links

No country can go wrong building infrastructure and Guyana needs it badly. None of Guyana’s three main rivers have fixed bridges. The port is outdated and cannot accommodate large vessels. There are plans to build a deep water port. There is also talk of bridging the river between Guyana and Suriname and complete the highway to Brazil.

Guyana lacks an all-weather highway to the interior of the country. An alternate highway to CJIA, and more roads and highways are needs to open the country’s vast frontier.

We must stop thinking poor, and start creating our own wealth, and bring contractors from Germany, Turkey, Ethiopia, Singapore, China, India, Brazil, Kenya and elsewhere. (At least one of the oil drilling installations that will operate in Guyana’s water is currently being built in Singapore). We must build with taste, as leaders have done in Singapore, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.

CJIA needs further modernization and, eventually, a totally new terminal that can speak of Guyana as a future member of OPEC. After spending US$150 million in a shady deal of the previous government, the airport is still too small. There will be need for more air-bridges and a complete new departure terminal. The new and modernized CJIA is nothing iconic.

There is need to modernize and expand the Ogle Airport. Ogle will begin to take on more flights from the Caribbean, while CJIA, if there is a “real” plan for a hub, may receive more intercontinental flights. Guyana needs a dedicated airline to open the hinterland and spur commerce. For example, there is lack of airlift to move produce and goods.

Make Lethem Airport an international one to push settlements and industries to expand the frontier.

Should Guyana move the capital to Essequibo?

All these developments add more legitimacy to the Cooperative Republic’s sovereignty over its land, air and sea. Strategically and for economic purposes, move the frontier by opening an international airport in Essequibo. As well, decision makers must explore a rail system for the country, and maybe the government should explore the idea of moving the capital further inland.

Education/Guest Workers and Dubai

Instead of giving handouts to families and enslaving them into a culture of laziness, provide food and healthcare for students in schools by supporting struggling families who wants a good education. Guyana, with less than one million inhabitants, will have to follow suit as was done and is being done in the Persian Gulf countries. Assist and support students all the way to university. The country will have to spend a lot of money to invest in human resources or end up like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. I can see similarities emerging. Good and bad will come with guest workers to Guyana, and we can take some lessons from the Gulf countries.

Guyana will have to recruit teachers from English-speaking countries. Many in the diaspora have become pessimists and won’t easily move back. In the future, teachers will come to Guyana from places like the Caribbean, Canada, USA, Africa, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, etc.

These infrastructure projects will create jobs for all races, especially unskilled people. A recent Kaieteur News report claimed that the majority of Guyana’s workforce doesn’t have above a primary education. Many skilled and unskilled guest-workers will be coming to the shores of Guyana and they are already coming from Trinidad and Tobago to take up highly skilled jobs. The government will let them in, and they will also come from elsewhere. Guyana must be ready for this reality. Where is the plan?

Healthcare

Guyana must build state of the art hospitals and attract doctors, specialists and nurses from far places like Nigeria, the Philippines and India. The government will no doubt pump a lot of money to modernize and the health centres in rural communities. A great deal of financial investment must be dedicated to end the horror of “maternal deaths” in Guyana. The country is very unfit to treat cancer, heart diseases, other non-communicable diseases and other serious illnesses. With oil and gas comes money, more people will come to Guyana, there will be need for top class healthcare for guest workers and locals.

Agriculture

The mechanization and modernization of agriculture in Guyana should mirror what is being done in Holland, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and elsewhere. Money needs to be invested in agriculture and the government intends to. Through South/South cooperation, Guyana expects to bring modern science and technology to improve rice and animal husbandry production. This also will appease and put Indo-Guyanese at ease, while the goal to become the food and breadbasket of the Caribbean will finally become a reality.

Sustainable Tourism

Tourism? Are we serious or not? We need a national airline to make a hub. To become a hub, you need a dedicated airline with about ten planes for the post oil and gas Guyana surge. You need people who know how to run it. Why not give Africa its cut and invite Ethiopian Airlines or Kenya Airways to take a 49 percent share in a national airline? The foreign ministry will have to help clinch bilateral air agreements that includes code share and 5, 6, 7 rights. Why not invite Surinam Airways to be part of it also? Let’s not be greedy and learn from Trinidad and Tobago’s failures and pompousness. It’s high time to think about Guyana’s development potential in terms of Guiana Shield expansion.

Above all, in this sector, all ethnic groups will benefit. Tourism development trickles down.

Security and Transparency

The country has a serious crime problem that even China has raised with the government. Many Chinese businesses have been robbed and nationals assaulted. Crime indeed has gone down. The government has made progress but much more has to be done. Oil workers will keep their families in Barbados and come to work in Guyana during weekdays. Who wants to leave the United States or elsewhere and move back to Guyana and live precariously? Crime affect economics and crime will not allow Guyana to surge.

The Guyanese people want to know in simple terms what to expect. What will they get out of the massive oil and gas finds? They need numbers. They need guidance, hope and leadership. The country needs more institutions to build transparency and accountability. So far, there isn’t much coming out of Guyana as to what the government or the opposition plans to do with all this wealth.

  • Born in Guyana, Raymond Chickrie was a teacher in the New York City public school system and has also taught in the Middle East.
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Comments

  • Trevor  On October 8, 2018 at 1:15 am

    Venezuela + Exxon = current state?
    So what’s in store for Guyana if the PPP/C, a Chavez sympathiser gets elected in 2020?

  • Trevor  On October 8, 2018 at 1:17 am

    Ray Chickrie, you have vision, but the politicians here in Guyana don’t have vision or they know that Exxon will pull the strings and they aren’t saying anything from fear of both Exxon & the populace at large.

  • Deen  On October 8, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    Very good article by Ray Chickrie that covered many issues that must be address in order to be prepared for a post-oil Guyana. So far it appears that Guyana is not taking an aggressive proactive to have a plan and things in place before 2020 when oil production begins. Without a completed plan, including contingency plan in case of disasters, Guyana will not only be known as “a land of many water,” but also a land of troubled waters.

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 14, 2018 at 7:43 pm

  • Tony Bollers  On October 15, 2018 at 9:57 am

    My Take: The hungry Countries of the World are coming to exploit Guyana’s wealth maybe without paying for it. Guyana needs to carefully Protect its assets for the future generations of its citizens!

    • Trevor  On October 15, 2018 at 6:28 pm

      Foreigners tekking over Guyana while Guyanese are fleeing the country, so White will become the dominant ethnicity in Guyana by 2030.

  • walter  On October 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

    OIL is new territory for GUYANA, and there will be bumps in the road. Even though there might not be a complete MASTER PLAN, the pieces will fall into place. Of all the suggestions made, the infrastructure will prove to be the most important, close to that must be the training of GUYANESE nationals to fill the many important positions in the field. One method could be the hire one, train two.
    I have total confidence in GUYANESE, over the years they helped build [ungrateful] countries with their professional expertise,now is the time to build their own country.

    • Trevor  On October 15, 2018 at 6:29 pm

      Only School of the Nations has offered courses in the oil industry at a whooping GY$1.25 million annually, or US$6,000. The white headmaster is catering for the wealthy and light-skinned in this country. If someone can bet with me, for fun, that Guyana will become a white dominant country by 2030? If you see how much white people in GT now, rass!

  • walter  On October 16, 2018 at 11:10 am

    Seems excessive, never the less the government will have to scholarship a few maybe in Texas, foreign workers can start the project. I remember when Chicago Bridge built the Alumina Plant they trained locals hands on. Remember money will be flowing, and Guyanese smartest people in the whole wide world. WIN WIN

    • Trevor  On October 17, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      We Guyanese have more knowledge of the oil curse than having any of the elites in GT providing us with jobs and training. I blame the AFC as they are a curse on this nation—one bunch of former PPP members who formed their own national political party….You can take the AFC out of the PPP political party but you can’t take the PPP out of the AFC.

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