JUST one year after first oil, Guyana’s Stabroek Block operators have announced a new investment programme to support local capacity building to ensure sectors beyond oil and gas benefit from the companies’ presence in Guyana. The Greater Guyana Initiative, which was announced last week, will include a GYD$20 billion commitment to support training and other development projects in Guyana over the next 10 years.
The Initiative appears to focus on elevating the level of training and capabilities among Guyanese workers and companies through new education and capacity building programmes aimed at preparing them for needs beyond those of the oil industry. It will also support public health initiatives and promote sustainable economic diversification throughout Guyana. Critically, this Initiative will be fully funded by the Stabroek Block operators and will not be part of the cost recovery process.
According to remarks from ExxonMobil Guyana President, Alistair Routledge, the programme has been in the works for the last two years. During that time, ExxonMobil has already been working with various groups, including the University of Guyana and the Council for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to pinpoint where the most support is needed to grow local development and advance programmes.
As stated by the former Canadian High Commissioner, Lilian Chatterjee, Guyana lacks the local technical capacity needed to be successful at present. ExxonMobil and its partners’ aim of supporting broader development addresses not only a current gap, but one that is a common pitfall in development, which is concentrating the local content focus and investments into one sector.
With better technical skills fitted to any industry, Guyanese can take on more important roles as the country’s development progresses. Guyanese companies will have the opportunity to compete for and win more lucrative infrastructure contracts that have typically gone to international contractors. Furthermore, increased expertise opens the door for further development in other industries in Guyana.
Local businesses have been rapidly adapting and expanding the services offered in Guyana after benefitting from the Centre for Local Business Development capacity development programmes. The Buzz recently highlighted one company that started with two guys and a computer and is now supporting several sectors. Organizations like the MatPal Marine Institute, also a beneficiary of the Centre, are already working with several sectors to train and place workers on offshore vessels. But the new Initiative aims to substantially expand the scale of this growth and adaptation.
Well-designed programmes like the Greater Guyana Initiative can be mutually beneficial for both companies and their host countries. It’s also a healthy step in cultivating the kind of long-term partnership that’s important when an oil company plans to be operating in the country for decades to come. The Greater Guyana Initiative’s ten-year timeline demonstrates ExxonMobil’s commitment to exactly that kind of partnership with Guyana.
As the funds will not be cost recovered through production, that also thankfully means that every dollar invested into capacity building will be an added investment in Guyana’s future, beyond the billions that have already been invested to develop the oil found in the Stabroek Block.
The Greater Guyana Initiative could be a much-needed step towards building up Guyana’s human capital and creating an experienced workforce ready to take on a larger and more profitable role in its growing economy across all sectors.