– Mangal tells Al Jazeera
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
International experts think that Guyana’s lack of a solid long-term development strategy will surely result in stagnation for the country even with oil wealth. In fact, some even think that with the paucity of that strategy and other needed measures, Guyana can end up worst off.
This issue was a topic of discussion when Al Jazeera recently did a 25-minute feature on Guyana. The general theme of the programme was “Guyana: Will its oil boom benefit the people?”
The discussion was between Al Jazeera hosts; Attorney-at-law, Christopher Ram; former Presidential Advisor, Jan Mangal; Director of Public Information, Imran Khan and Director, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, Lisa Sachs.
Giving her take on the issue, Sachs expressed disappointment that Guyana seems severely ill prepared with just less than two years away from first oil.
Sachs said, “There are two components. One is getting the deal right and the other is managing the sector and being able to negotiate with international players—which is an enormous task.”
She said that the other component would be ensuring that the benefits that the country receives trickle down to the masses.
Sachs said that the economic linkages so far are not the bonanza that all were hoping for with an oil boom.
She said, too, that Guyana should not rely on job creation even if there were capacity. “What the country needs is a long-term development strategy. How does this oil boom fit into the long-term development plans and needs of Guyana? How is this going to help build health system, energy system and the education system?
This was when Mangal interjected.
He said, “The president has a very solid vision for the country. It is just in implementing that vision that there are some stumbling blocks. We have to recognize that it is a Coalition Government and the politics involved.”
Mangal told Al Jazeera that Guyanese think that the President “can make everything happen but he cannot make everything happen.”
He continued, “That is where Guyanese need to step in; Civic society needs to play a strong role and strong institutions (need to play a role as well) but those are things we do not have in Guyana and we need to develop quickly.
Ram did not agree with Mangal. He said, “It is true, civil society has to play a role. However, civil society did not have a role in the kind of contract that was imposed on Guyana. We know in 2016 ExxonMobil said that they were not going to start spending until there was a replacement petroleum license and an agreement.”
Ram continued, “We know that we have no policy framework, no legislative framework, no institutional framework; no policy in relation to consumption and savings. We have a serious fiscal and social deficit.”
Ram was adamant, “We cannot only use the money we get from oil for future generations. What about current generation? Where is our absorptive capacity? Can Guyana, with next to zero human capacity, institutional capacity and legislative capacity absorb the revenue from one million barrels of oil per day? We should not be excited about those things.”
Ram said that Guyanese ought to be worried if the pace of production is consistent with the legislative framework of the country or if the nation is gleefully walking the road of Venezuela.
“Are we introducing the Dutch disease or resource curse? Those are some of the dangers. Look, I am a proud Guyanese but I think we have serious problems and we need to confront them. I am a part of civil society. I may talk but I never get listened to by those in the corridors of power,” said Ram.
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