Even with an expectation of Guyana’s first oil to be extracted within the next two years, several sections of society are still not au fait with the topic, its implications, and how exactly the local population stands to benefit from the new oil and gas sector.
In fact, the lack of consultation as it relates to the oil and gas sector appears to be across the board, with the blame being placed squarely on the shoulders of the coalition government. During a recent meeting with the press, the Working People’s Alliance, (WPA) a member of the coalition sought to expose this deficiency.
The WPA noted that although it is a member of the ruling coalition government, the party has never been consulted or briefed on the negotiations and other official deliberations on the matter.
The widespread debate on oil has included input from the government, political opposition, analysts, economists and other experts in the field.
However, the conversation has excluded a very important stakeholder— the public.
In this regard, political commentator and executive member of the WPA, Dr David Hinds has noted the need for the inclusion of civil society groups, the media , trade unions, Non -Governmental Organizations, (NGOs), business sector, health sector as well as members of the private and public sector.
According to Hinds, all matters as it relates to the sector should be up for discussion, including issues related to the oil contracts, Guyana’s Green State Development Strategy, and the implementation of a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).
Dr Hinds believes that in inviting civil society to participate in discussions on oil, the government has a chance to correct the mistake it made in the contract negotiations.
“It did not consult enough before signing the contract. No proposal, including the Sovereign Wealth Fund, should be implemented without consulting the people within their organizations and their communities.”
Hinds stressed too that even though the WPA has a position on the matter, that too should be subject to debate, discussion and consultation.
“On the matter of the renegotiation of the oil contract ….if we go the way of broad consultations we would be setting an example for our broader governance culture, and at the same time give the Guyanese people ownership of their common assets. Parliament and cabinet are organs of indirect democracy. There is a necessary place for direct democracy–going directly to the people. The same energy that some of our leaders put into the recent PNC internal party campaign should be put into consultations on how to spend the oil and gas revenues.
Hinds said that the executive branch of government does not have a monopoly on how the public wealth should be distributed.
“(Therefore) they must listen with the ears of the people, think with the minds of the people, and speak with the voice of the people. Now is their chance to prove that they believe in true democratic governance,” he added.
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