Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin has cautioned Guyanese to adopt a realistic approach to Trinidadians working in local the oil and gas sector.
The Minister made the disclosure in an interview with Kaieteur News following concerns raised by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) which expressed concerns about the potential harm to local businesses from a planned signing of an energy agreement between the Governments of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
Gaskin shared the view that Guyanese should be concerned, but then downplayed that view with the historical pattern of migrating Guyanese.
“Should we panic? No. Should we become xenophobic? No. There are things that will happen. Guyanese have been leaving Guyana for the last 60 years and more to go and work in foreign countries. Now that our fortunes have changed or about to change the reverse is happening. Is that a terrible thing? Should we close our doors and say don’t come. Come on let’s be realistic,” Gaskin stated.
Asked about the possible influx of Trinidadian workers and companies due to the planned closure of the state-owned oil company Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (Petrotrin), Gaskin stated that Guyanese should have more confidence in their local companies and employees.
“If we don’t have the skills we should try to get those skills because no company is going to employ a Trinidadian to work in Guyana when there is a Guyanese who can do the job and it is likely that the Guyanese will do the job for less than the Trinidadian. I am saying, it is likely simply because they have become accustomed to a much higher compensation than we have here. We can still be competitive at home. The question is whether we have the necessary certified skills,” Gaskin stated.
Even if the CARICOM member does not get to refine Guyana’s oil, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is expected to pave the way for T&T firms to participate in Guyana’s oil sector.
But the Chamber wants the government to put a hold on this signing until it can make the document public. According to GCCI, the Chamber is not “anti-T&T” but it needs to see if the agreement will have dire consequences for the private sector. The Chamber has also expressed the view that Trinidad continues to hurt Guyanese products which are often transhipped to other countries.
The Business Minister underscored that local content is going to come from 75% of the cost for oil production and that Government wants as much as possible to be spent in Guyana or to be retained in Guyana.
“It’s not that easy to do. A lot of the services and the supplies that are required that will eat up that 75% cost oil, are not available in Guyana, but what is available we have to ensure that it is used,” he said.
Further, Gaskin noted that for this to happen, it will require focus on things that Guyanese have been very lax with over the years, particularly as it relates to standards and certification. He stated that there are some companies working to improve their own operations by putting management systems in place to become ISO certified.
“There are a lot more businesses who are not. The few that are doing that have had some positive responses. Unfortunately, it still is a competitive business. The fact that you get yourself ready to provide services to the oil companies or to the industry and you send in one or two bids doesn’t guarantee that you are going to be selected. It is a competitive industry, but there are provisions in the agreements that give preferences to Guyanese employees and companies,” Gaskin noted.
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