Guyana: Oil and Opportunity: We are fighting the wrong enemy

By Leonard Gildarie

Leonard Gildarie

This is an all-too-familiar song. We are missing a game-changing opportunity to dance to the music. I cannot emphasise it more. We are instead, sitting in a corner, refusing to ask that pretty girl who is side-eyeing for a dance.

Forty years down the line, we will wonder, and possibly regret: what if the courage was mustered and she was asked?

We have some remarkable opportunities to make hay while the sun shines, but we are lapsing big time. Of course I am talking about OIL.

This past week, Kaieteur News published a front page photo depicting the developing situation in Houston, where oil-related activities are all happening at Muneshwers and Schlumberger, an area bought out from Gafoors, and where over US$100M has been plugged into a facility.         

The photo showed the wharf area. It should open our eyes. We have a facility that can only at the moment facilitate about two boats at a time. Muneshwers in Houston has the only shore base area that ExxonMobil, with its high demand, is willing to use.

However, the harsh reality is that we simply lack other such facilities.

We would need more space, a ready supply of fuel, food and water supplies, medical and oil spill capacity, and of course, storage. Security and highly-trained workers are also huge requirements in the oil and gas industry. We need more hotels.

Here is the huge problem. ExxonMobil is full speed ahead drilling a number of exploratory wells and readying for the arrival of its platform for Liza 1 later this year. At any point in time, there will be about 20 ships, including emergency ones, in our waters.

Where are they going to be accommodated?
From indications, about 80 percent of the vessels are heading to Trinidad to use their many facilities.
Here is the bad news. We are losing money big time. By the millions weekly. Not chump change.

Direct employment by ExxonMobil and its oil operations will not be much…I would say not more 2,000. The spinoffs…food, insurance, travel agency, rentals, advertising, maintenance and engineering services, auditing, legal services, construction and the list goes on…is where the money is at. It is where local Guyanese will have to take up the slack. We need to take stock at what is happening.

I recall the US embassy officials and others warning that indeed, direct employment would be limited. The question is what are we doing about the situation?

Though only a few months old, the Department of Energy has its hands full. It is dealing with applications. It is dealing with local content. It is fielding criticisms. It seriously does not have capacity.

Locally, our political situation, with that no-confidence vote, has pushed oil to the back burners for the people. Almost all of persons I am talking to are more concerned with the political happenings and which party is in office. They think the oil activity is government’s job.

We have been thrust headlong into a field that will test us to the core. We will either rise or be beaten into submission. ExxonMobil is no schoolboy. The company is one of the biggest in the world. It has its shareholders to think about. It has lawyers who are the best in the world. It said it plugged US$4B for the first phase and will plug another US$6B into second phase of the oil development.

Those figures boggles my mind…750,000 barrels per day by 2025.
Yet at the moment we have fighting among ourselves. We don’t understand the real enemy. I want to see my Opposition publicly calling on Government for a non-partisan forum, where ideas can be tabled for the country’s future, in especially the oil industry.

I want my private sector to be less partisan.
We have an opportunity. The world is watching. Let us show them we have steel in us…and that country comes first.

Kaieteur News, I will disclose, has been approached time and again, to relax its stance on oil, and to change the narrative. I am not sure how that works. The entire country needs guidance and the media, as watchdogs, have a key role to play to educate our people.

Kaieteur News has not been afraid to ask the hard questions. We should. We must.
We have oil in our backyard and we have little say in what happens. What does that make us?

On the flip side, ExxonMobil has an opportunity to showcase Guyana to the world. It can do a better deal. It can prove that the oil curse of other oil-producing nations cannot fall on us. The goodwill of make Guyana a poster boy or girl can only spin a positive story.

Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela are but examples we have to take note of.
I am deeply worried about our reluctance to ask each other for help. We have to continue to demand, to push for more awareness. The hour is upon us and there is little time left.

There are two other issues I will briefly touch on this week.

A minister with responsibility for housing, Valerie Patterson-Yearwood, came in for severe criticism recently after her husband benefitted from contracts that came from the Central Housing and Planning Authority, an entity that fell under her jurisdiction. Her explanations are simply not good enough. She should have known. This has all the hallmarks of a conflict of interest case, however you turn it or twist it.

President David Granger may be accused of taking his time to act, but to be fair, he was overseas receiving medical attention. His answer is very clear. Patterson-Yearwood was removed to another ministry in the public interest.

There was a time in the country when party members were immune to sanctions. Policemen and business persons were above the law. It is a fact. The current administration has many faults, but it should be credited for placing a number of systems in place. We are in a better place now. A number of ministers have been sanctioned. We would be burying our heads in the sand if we claim otherwise.

There is another incident that had me shaking my head. Of course, we are talking about the Abdul Kadir “sympathy” motion in the National Assembly. It is simple. Governance is not in a vacuum. We have to be careful of public perception. We have to wary of implications. While there is a tradition of paying respects to the late parliamentarians, the circumstance of Kadir’s death should have caused us to rethink.

I sympathise with the family. I understand the impact of the loss of a loved one.

However, he was convicted in the US court on terrorism-related charges.
The statement of the US embassy, I felt, was harsh, taking into account the explanation of Government and the Clerk of the National Assembly that paying tribute for the service to the National Assembly by late Parliamentarians is a tradition. However, I can also understand the stance of the US, Canada and the European Union. They have been working with Guyana in a number of areas involving security.

We just have to be mindful. There could be costly missteps.

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  • michael hawkins  On May 6, 2019 at 5:03 am

    I trust the Mp’s are up to the job at hand. This will be a far different ball game as they will be playing with the Big Boys now

  • wally n  On May 6, 2019 at 9:55 am

    I have confidence in the Government’s ability to overcome the initial bumps in the road, lots of information out there. In the case of the infrastructure, one problem that hangs around is over building, outside agencies that require the infrastructure should pick up most if not all of the cost, inexperience usually brings after
    “Olympics Gone Syndrome”.
    Always wondered why the country does not invest in large water containers, flat or overhead, we have the water upper river, the technology, water barging, it is all out there.
    Might sound mean, but the inter action with Trinidad, makes me nervous, years of jealousy, hatred and inherent dishonesty, keep one eye open.
    Guyana has the brains, they will master the oil thingee, and do a better job than that was done before in other third world countries, we did it with bauxite and other industries, no reason we can’t handle this. Bring it on.
    I am so excited to see this phase of the country’s development, so excited.

  • Trevor  On May 6, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    AmeriKKKa sanctioned Venezuela’s CITGO American-based company and Petroleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA) local oil company.

    It’s unfair for one to wholly blame the economic woes of Venezuela on bus driver Maduro.

    The USA has also instigated coups, with one as recent as a week ago, and threatened every country that if they buy Venezuela oil from PDVSA, they will become sanctioned into oblivion.

  • wally n  On May 6, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    TREVOR that code for “BIGGER GUN ALWAYS WIN?” if it is better learn to live with it, the other BIG GUN is rice line, oil line, you know where I am going.
    We been there before, and we ain’t going back.

    • Trevor  On May 7, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      America has a 20 Trillion dollar economy, and spends billions a year on the military.

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