–to ensure equity, PM promises stakeholders at oil & gas meet
By Alexis Rodney
PRIME Minister Moses Nagamootoo said Monday that the government is prepared to amend whatever legislations it has to, so as to ensure that those who wish to invest in the economy are properly rewarded.
“We’re rolling the pitch with the big roller; we are preparing for the ‘big games’ in Guyana, and we want all investors to enjoy a level playing field,” he told potential stakeholders in what promises to be a booming oil and gas industry here gathered at the Marriot International Hotel.
The occasion was the opening session of a two-day forum organised by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Caribbean-Central American Action (CCAA), themed “The Transformational Economy: Perspectives and Opportunities for Guyana’s Private Sector”.
According to the CCAA, the discovery of significant oil reserves off Guyana’s coast has the potential to radically shift the country’s economic future. This being the case, it says, important work has to be done to ensure that Guyana is ready for this transformation.
As such, the two-day forum brings together members of Guyana’s public and private sectors, as well as regional and international stakeholders, to examine some of the key considerations for the economy.
The private sector is said to have a major role to play, and, as the oil economy grows, the sector must also grow with it, providing new services, skills, and products, to respond to the opportunities.
According to the prime minister, Guyana is open to investments of all types, and that with the coming of oil, there could be substantial rewards for all investors.
“We invite the private sector to contribute to the environment of accountability, transparency and good governance and invest in infrastructure and provide employment in Guyana; to develop talent through training; to help develop the society by investing part of business proceeds in the Guyanese society,” he said, adding:
“You have to grow the country first.”
And as the country prepares for oil and gas and the transformation and changes, he said, the private sector should invest “massively if possible” in preparing the population for the oil and gas economy, to invest in the training of petroleum engineers, environmental scientists, health workers, and agro processors among other areas.
He’s hoping that the two-day meet would help Guyana understand the diverse nature of oil and gas, and the perspective and opportunities available to the Private Sector.
He said Guyana has an economy that has been growing steadily for the past 15 years. And although it might be a bit slower now than a few years ago, it is fully liberalised and is based on the principles of free market.
“There is credit that is available to the Private Sector; inflation has been low, and foreign direct investment has been growing,” the PM said, adding that the economy has been showing both a high level of consumption and savings, and that the country has maintained sustainable debt levels.
In listing the government’s economic scale, Founder and Director of the Guyana Oil and Gas Association (GOGA), Nigel Hughes said the country’s budget has harboured around US$1.2B over the last few years, and that with the onset of oil, some US$380M will be added in the first three years.
He opined that at the height of production, the LIZA and PAYARA wells could use as much as US$300,000 a day, while royalties and PSA payments could double the government’s budget by 2025.
According to Hughes, VAT payments for last year alone was about G$45M. But this, he explained, is just the government’s side of the equation.
As to the other side of the equation, Hughes said there are many cases where the private sector, and by extension sections of the population, have benefitted from the discovery of oil, although most of the wealth is deposited into governments account.
The Local Content Policy, he said, is a case in point where the private sector has been able to enter into contracts, based on the strength of the country’s local content provisions.
“Oil must be seen as a catalyst, allowing the government to achieve sustainable development goals, and the private sector as a contributor to economic growth,” Hughes said, adding that key to Guyana is the need for the private sector to be an engine of growth and the oil income to be translated into viable new sectors.
He said that while the government will be able to provide an enabling environment, it is the Private Sector that will have to create jobs and, by extension, growth.
Vice-Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Desmond Sears said over the last 25 years, the PSC has held cordial relations with governments and political parties. He said the PSC understand the needs of the business community and has been collaborating with government to promote an enabling environment for investments.
“There have been numerous deliberations relating to public policies tax reforms, political climate and crime, among others. The PSC stands impartial from the political environment and works closely with government and political oppositions to enhance the living standards of all Guyanese,” Sears said.