– Ex T&T Energy Minister warns Guyana
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
The Zen proverb, “It takes a wise man to learn from his mistakes but an even wiser man to learn from the mistakes of others,” encapsulates the advice offered to Guyana by former Energy Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kevin
The politician who has a wealth of knowledge about the oil and gas industry, said that Guyana would be wise to learn from the mistakes of numerous countries around the world with oil industries.
Ramnarine served as Minister of Energy of Trinidad and Tobago from June 2011 to September 2015. From May 2010 to June 2011, he served as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago.
Ramnarine was invited earlier this year by the Guyana Oil and Gas Association (GOGA) to deliver a presentation here. He made several important points and offered key advice based on the experience of Trinidad and Tobago as well as other countries. He noted, extensively, the mistakes made by his country as well as the things she got right.
Seemingly over-expectant, Ramnarine said, “With the opportunity that oil presents, I think that Guyana is more than capable of learning from all the experiences available to them to create a uniquely better outcome for themselves.” He said that perhaps the single most important event in the economic history of Guyana was the declaration by ExxonMobil of its discovery of crude oil in its Liza-1 well.
Ramnarine said that in preparing his presentation, he pondered extensively on what he would do if he was in President David Granger’s shoes at such an important time in Guyana’s history.
He listed about six areas of concern which he thinks imperatively need to be addressed.
Birthed from one of Ramnarine’s concerns is the question: How can Guyana avoid the gloomy fate sealed by some other countries with oil?
The politician said, “I would be concerned about Guyana going down the road of ruin taken by some oil-based economies. I would contemplate the words of one of the founders of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), a Venezuelan named Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso. In 1975, he said: “I call petroleum the devil’s excrement. It brings trouble…Look at this locura—waste, corruption, consumption, our public services falling apart. And debt, debt we shall have for years.”
Ramnarine said that indeed, there would be a long list of things to do before 2020. “Make no mistake about it, the years 2017 to 2020 are the most crucial years in the post-independence history of Guyana,” he said.
He continued, “In these years, Guyana must follow the tailor’s rule “measure twice, cut once”. You have one chance to get this right. The good news is there are a lot of countries that can serve as examples.”
Ramnarine said that Guyana has an opportunity to build an Oil and Gas Sector that has benefited from the lessons learnt from other countries around the world.
He said that in looking at some of the countries that are big producers of oil, one can easily identify countries that Guyana should not want to emulate. “We don’t have to go very far. Venezuela is a prime example of “Resource Curse Thesis” and “Dutch Disease”. In fact, there is a spectrum that starts with Venezuela and ends with Norway, and you have to determine where you want to be on that spectrum.”
Ramnarine admitted that Trinidad made many mistakes but he said that the fundamental difference between Trinidad and Guyana is that Trinidad inherited an oil industry from the British at Independence. But, Guyana will be building an industry from scratch “and that may not be such a bad thing.”
“This is a blank canvas. We didn’t have a blank canvas (in Trinidad and Tobago) at Independence. We had an established oil industry at Independence. But this is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. You have an opportunity to take the best from the experiences of other countries and make your own Guyana model, so that 20 years from now we won’t be talking about the Norway model. We will be talking about the Guyana model.”
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