Jan 17, 2017 News
Even as the news of the second oil find offshore Guyana reverberates, political commentator and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran, is calling on the government to establish a national oil and gas company to
manage the oil industry from the earliest stage.
Guyana’s second oil find was reported last week. The find by ExxonMobil is located at a well called Payara-1.
The presence of petroleum offshore Guyana was confirmed last year when ExxonMobil announced its world class discovery at the Liza well. The Payara-1 is the most recent find.
Given the discovery and what it could mean for Guyana ‘economic development, Ramkarran is of the view that while the government is working to establish the legal framework and institutional mechanisms, steps should be taken towards the establishment of a national oil and gas company.
He noted former Minister of Energy of Trinidad and Tobago, Kevin Ramnarine, recently, urged Guyana to establish the national oil and gas company whose leadership should be insulated from politics.
While this is easier said than done, the former politician believes that it can be accomplished if the effort starts now.
Additionally, he noted there is no evidence that it is making any effort to reach out to the opposition to build consensus from the earliest stage.
“If the government wants political and national consensus going forward, it needs to start consultations with the opposition early or face the possibility of a perennially contentious situation for our oil industry.”
Apart from all the matters which have to be resolved relating to oil, Ramkarran noted that one major issue facing Guyana and its government is how to ensure that Guyana’s agriculture, mining and forestry industries are sustained since a large number of developing countries that have become oil producers have seen their indigenous industries abandoned because of the flow of income from oil.
The former Speaker says the obvious question is how do agri-based industries in which Guyana has great potential and other industries, such as in information technology and otherwise develop?
He believes, nonetheless, that unless the Government decides to impose lending by banks of a certain percentage of overall loans to special areas, such as agriculture, paying special attention to small and medium scale farmers, it would need to devise some serious incentives to banks to increase the flow of resources to agriculture and agri-based industries.
“Lending for agriculture and the inadequacy of financial instruments to encourage agriculture in developing countries, even though large sections of the population is engaged in agriculture, been recognized as a problem as an international problem and many ideas exist to deal with it.”
“The experience of other countries like Brazil, whose exports of agricultural products is about 30 percent of its GDP, can be useful.
It is necessary that these consultations and discourses should begin now, so that public opinion is engaged on these matters and that Government should lead the way,” he added.
The oil discovery is being viewed as a major game-changer for Guyana and one that will change the country’s fortunes.
Guyana received news of its first major oil find in May 2015 from the Exxon-Mobil.
Since then, training, legislations and consultations have been ongoing to ready Guyana for oil production with approval already granted to build an on-shore facility.
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