Safeguards in place for transparency, accountability in O&G sector
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Vice-President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo
Vice-President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

— Vice-President Jagdeo responds to misinformation in public domain

VICE-PRESIDENT, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo on social media platform “The Guyana Dialogue” on Thursday evening addressed what he described as inaccuracies and misconceptions about management and accountability of the nascent oil-and-gas industry.

This was the second edition of the programme that debuted on June 5 with President, Dr Irfaan Ali as the first guest. Next week’s programme will feature Prime Minister, Mark Phillips.

The Guyana Dialogue is an initiative of the diaspora. It is organised by a coordinating council in the diaspora and coordinated by community advocate Dr Tara Singh.  It is hosted by social media personality Shameeza Ally and moderated by former Senior Lecturer of UG, Dr Tara Singh with Dave Narine as a commentator.
Funding for the programme comes from businessman and philanthropist, Dave Narine of Dave West Indian Imports.

The purpose of the programme is to provide viewers with fact-based and evidence-based information in order to allow them to understand the scope, nature and challenges of development in Guyana.
Dr. Singh explained that the aim of the programme is to address misinformation pertaining to development in Guyana and to clarify and give understanding of issues. It is a weekly programme aired every Thursday from 19:00 hrs to 20:00 hrs

The Vice-President in his opening remarks praised the initiators and thinkers who conceived the programme.
“Let me commend the diaspora for this Guyana Global Dialogue initiative. Let me also thank Mr Dave Narine for funding this initiative. It is good to have a programme that engages Guyanese to become aware of facts of issues, so that they can make informed decisions. There is a drought of informed opinions in our country. There are rhetorical and anecdotal comments and there are some people out to make mischief,” he said.

Asked about Norton’s claim that he was in possession of original Statements of Poll (SoPs) that show the Coalition won the elections, the Vice-President stated he did not wish to contaminate the programme by addressing this outrageous lie. But he debunked the claim, saying that Norton is not taken seriously.

The Vice-President was also asked to comment on misinformation pertaining to the subject of oil revenues and the Natural Resources Fund, as they relate to accountability and transparency.
 
CAREFULLY ADDRESSED
Jagdeo responded: “Our election manifesto carefully addressed the issues. We proposed laws to change what the APNU legislated. We stated that we would put out an infrastructure to manage the sector from a regulatory perspective. We said we would reform and update the 1986 ACT – the Petroleum Act, and we have strengthened the regulatory capabilities of Ministry of Natural Resources. We said there would be a transition to an independent petro commission – in terms of the architecture of managing the sector. We stated we would reform the Sovereign Wealth Fund or the Natural Resource Fund. The APNU passed an illegal act after it lost the no-confidence motion. That act lacked legitimacy because it was passed after the no-confidence vote.”
He noted that the APNU legislation concentrated enormous powers in the hands of the Minister of Finance and this does not lend itself to transparency or regulation of the sector.
“We made a commitment on transparency and reducing the powers of government officials. And we honoured our commitment. We stipulated how we will use the resource fund, the oil wealth. We stated what sector it would go to and why. We wanted to avoid the Dutch disease which could affect all sectors of the economy. Our criticism of APNU and our manifesto were clear on our position on the oil-and-gas industry. We had the blessing of the electorate in terms of winning the elections; the electorate endorsed our manifesto and we proceeded to legislate and implement programmes. We also stated our position on [the] gas-to-energy project. It was in our manifesto. And we did it.
“We have the Wales Industrial Development Complex Project. We have had transparency in resources and in receipts. Look at what APNU did. They hid the signing bonus and lied about it. They put it in an account that evaded the Auditor-General,” he said.
On the oil contract with ExxonMobil, he said government acknowledged it was lopsided, but made clear that it will not renegotiate it.

DIFFERENT TERMS
Though renegotiation would have been a popular position during the election campaign, he said the People’s Progressive Party/Civic did not go down this road, but noted that any new development in the oil sector will come on different terms.
This includes ring-fencing among other steps, issues that were deficiencies in the contract signed by APNU.
“We said we would accelerate production for the fossil fuel sector because of Conference of Parties (COP) climate change net zero goal offered a limited period for the fossil fuel sector. We said we would seek more benefits for local Guyanese. Local content legislation was passed. We encouraged and promoted local capacity building measures. We have created huge opportunities for Guyanese companies. Foreigners are busy running down Guyanese private sector companies to partner with them. Our policy has led to a rebalancing to bring benefits to Guyanese businesses. We have eked out more benefits to Guyanese. We said we will bring the gas to shore, monetize the gas, and generate cheap power that will impact [the] business community. We aim to cut electricity prices by 2024 by 50 per cent. On environmental protection, we are taking appropriate precautions.

“Don’t believe what you read that we are not doing feasibility studies. We did feasibility on the issue. We hired technical people on structural matters. On [the] capacity building side, we are building a massive oil training institute at the Training Centre in Port Mourant. We are paying to train people on short term – to fill immediate jobs as welders, fitters, etc,” the release noted.
The Vice-President also said the government has received enquiries and/or interests from members of the diaspora seeking positions in the energy sector.

“We don’t have the kind of positions they seek in government. We are not a producing entity. We are a regulator at this stage,” he noted.

The Vice-President also slammed the ‘so called’ environmentalists of Guyana for their duplicity.

“Every country in the world looks out for itself. The US has urged companies to produce more oil because of Ukraine in spite of limitations relating to COP 26. Our so called environmentalists are not taking a nationalist position like those of other countries to promote oil production. Some have written to the PM of Barbados to ask us to stop oil production. The PM of Barbados herself is asking oil companies to search for oil off the coast. We must look out for our country. Our environmental position is strong. We are at net zero. We will remain so for a long time. We are funding capital programmes for long-term development. We are not focused on current expenditures,” he said.

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