By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
Alliance For Change (AFC) Executive Members who were at yesterday’s press conference burst into laughter when they were asked to respond to Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo’s claim that party members are looking to grab up oil blocks.
Minister of Public Works, David Patterson, explained why he and his comrades were so tickled. He said, “There is nothing left to give out, and Jagdeo knows that.”
Patterson said that Jagdeo has done with the oil blocks just what he did with forestry lands. He repeated, “There is nothing left.”
The Minister said, “When we got in (Office) they had already given out everything. What you got to do is find out who they give it to; some of the people we do not even know. There is nothing to give they have given out all and he (Jagdeo) should know because when he was president he was the person in charge of natural resources.”
Patterson said that there is not much that the government can do to reclaim the blocks. He said that the only avenue seems to be one where the lands can revert to the state if a certain time period has elapsed without the block owner carrying out activities.
“In that case there will be a processed to be followed, but I think now that oil has been discovered no one will lapse.”
In 2015, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, made some shocking pronouncements.
He said that upon taking up office in May last year, the David Granger administration met an alarming situation where it was discovered that 100 percent or all of the country’s productive forest was allocated by the past Government, mainly to foreign investors.
Minister Trotman questioned, “How could a responsible government preside over the allocation of all, not some, but all of its productive forest?”
He said that it was done without any regard for future generations.
Trotman said that in the context of the national patrimony, this can only be seen as a threat to the nation’s long term viability and security as a people.
It seems as if the same thing has been done with the oil blocks.
Recently, experts have been saying that Guyana would do well to set up a national oil company. That company should be given a block where oil is suspected to be. It can then partner with a well-established oil company which has the necessary technology to drill.
That notion was put forward by former Chairman of the Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Petrotrin), Donald Baldeosingh, who explained that the presence of at least one local company is very important to the stabilization of a country’s oil industry. But, with what Patterson has revealed, that does not seem possible.
Baldeosingh’s recommendation would be nothing new to the world. Many oil-rich countries have national companies. These include Norway which has Statoil; Brazil which has Petrobras; Mexico which has Pemex; Trinidad has Petrotrin as well as a national gas company and Suriname has Staatsolie. Also, Colombia has (Ecopetrol); Malaysia has Petronas; and Russia has Gazprom.
Trinidad and Tobago established its company since 1975. Baldeosingh went on to highlight more benefits of having a national oil company.
He said, “If you are also an operator it means that people cannot hold you to ransom.”
Former Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Energy, Kevin Ramnarine, has made similar comments to those made by Baldeosingh. However, he did not go into as much detail.
Ramnarine’s comments were made at a lecture facilitated by the Guyana Oil and Gas Association (GOGA).
At that forum, Ramnarine said, “Guyana needs a flagship national Oil and Gas Company. This company’s board and management must be insulated from politics. A percentage of this company’s equity must be listed on the Guyana Stock Exchange. This will allow institutional investors and citizens the opportunity to directly own Guyana’s oil industry.
“It will hold equity in upstream blocks and participate in the marketing of crude oil. I would recommend that a separate company be formed to develop the support infrastructure for the industry with private sector participation and a separate company formed for marketing. That would be three separate state companies.
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