By Kiana Wilburg
In the interest of transparency, the Coalition Government should publish all necessary information related to the oil and gas sector and contracts therein.
This point of view was recently posited by Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Dr. David Hinds, during an interview with Kaieteur News.
The political commentator was at the time commenting on the call by some members of civil society for the Government to publish all sales and production data for public scrutiny. This would give citizens the opportunity to see for themselves, what the country is making.
Dr. Hinds said that he not only agrees with this suggestion but stressed that the Government has a constitutional responsibility to do so. He said that the Government may for political reasons, and in the interest of confidentiality, be tempted to again withhold some information.
He noted, however, that such a move would only add fuel to the growing perception that the government is developing a culture of secrecy regarding the oil and gas industry. The Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance said that increased transparency is the most effective way to counter that perception.
As Guyana inches closer to oil production, the systems for accurate reporting on the sector will be essential. In fact, Advisor to Chatham House on Oil and Gas, Mr. Anthony Paul, said that Guyana, like other new petroleum producers have done, will need to develop programmes for a robust oil and gas sector.
He said that one of these programmes includes creating trusted individuals, agencies and channels for providing up-to-date information to citizens.
The Chatham House Advisor was careful to note as well that having policies which may dictate the disclosure of data is not enough.
In the case of Ghana and Nigeria for example, there are policies which expressly state that petroleum data should be released. But in several instances, there have been criticisms where the data was said to be inflated.
The Chatham House Advisor shared that Brazil has a very comprehensive system of collecting and reporting petroleum data. But it’s efficient reporting required “trusted individuals, agencies and channels…”
Paul also stated that in the case of Trinidad and Tobago (TT), the nation’s regulations provide for the disclosure of oil information. Those regulations have been in place since 1970.
However, TT is now about to put mechanisms in place to get “credible” data. The Chatham advisor noted that this was due to the fact that the regulatory capacity of Trinidad and Tobago was not where it should have been.
OTHER CRUCIAL FACTORS
The Oil and Gas expert also noted that there will be a need for other programmes to complement the aforementioned.
In Guyana’s case, Paul said there would be a need for educating citizens, special interest groups and the media on the workings of the industry; providing platforms for engaging with civil society (two way conversations) and demonstrating that feedback is incorporated into management of the sector.
Aware of the potential impacts of the “resource curse,” the Chatham House Advisor said that several international NGOs and multilateral agencies have been engaged in improving governance of natural resources in new oil and gas producing countries.
Paul stated that the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) has been a leader in this respect and has developed a whole compendium of tools, including Natural Resource Charter, which provides a structured approach for developing countries to manage the multiple facets of resource governance for sustainable development.
The Advisor noted that the Chatham House New Petroleum Producers Discussion Group (NPPDG) has been assisting Guyana.
He noted, too, that the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and several others have developed guidelines and tools that can be useful to government regulators and to Civil Society in developing their capacity to hold government accountable in managing the resources.
Paul emphasised that there are lots of lessons that can be learnt from these interventions.
GLOBAL WITNESS SUPPORTS
The Global Witness is an international body that works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide.
It is one of many institutions, which has implored governments of oil nations around the world, to ensure that certain documents are released for citizens to scrutinise.
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