By Kiana Wilburg
From all indications, it is quite clear that the Coalition Administration is still too focused on painting a rosy picture regarding the preparations for oil as opposed to addressing numerous difficult issues to secure Guyana’s future.
Making this statement yesterday during an interview with Kaieteur News was Oil and Gas Consultant, Dr. Jan Mangal.
His comments followed the presentations made by Business Minister, Dominic Gaskin and Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson yesterday morning in Houston, Texas at the Baker Institute Rice University. The topic of discussion was “Oil and Gas Development in Guyana.”
Other panelists included Newell Maurice Dennison, Commissioner of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC); Sean Herrera, Managing Director of the Caribbean component of Schlumberger; and Jamie McInerney, Senior Director at FTI Consulting.
Gaskin, who was the keynote speaker, said that despite what the naysayers and preachers of doomsday may say, the government is of the firm view that oil and gas has the potential to transform Guyana.
In this regard, he noted that the coalition administration is already making moves to improve the business landscape that will see a rush of interest from the looming oil sector. Also expressing similar sentiments was McInerney. He said that if one reads the local media reports, one would get the impression that the resource curse is imminent, when in fact, the government is already taking steps to avoid this.
Even Schlumberger’s Managing Director spoke glowingly of Guyana’s investment climate, while noting that there have been a few surmountable challenges.
After attending the event, which also was live streamed, the former Government Advisor, Dr Jan Mangal, told Kaieteur News that the objective of the participants was to paint a rosy picture of Guyana’s preparation for the oil sector.
He said, “I completely agree that Guyana has a tremendous opportunity with oil, but we can only succeed if we recognise and address the risks, and the risks are overwhelming. It is in the second part, on risks, that the government is lagging. The government wants to portray a picture as if they are in charge and they have everything under control with elections coming up. Then for the oil companies and contractors (like Exxon and Schlumberger), they will be doing the same, because they are investing a lot of money in Guyana, and they want their shareholders to think that everything is fine in Guyana.”
The transparency advocate continued, “If Wall Street and shareholders become worried about Guyana, they will be less inclined to acquire and hold shares in these companies. So all of the parties on this panel had an agenda, so we should not expect to see a true representation of what is taking place in Guyana and discussion of the challenges and risks that Guyana is facing. (Be that as it may,) Minister Gaskin was quite frank on a number of issues, which was good.”
Dr. Mangal added, “And then you can kind of hone in on that person from FTI Consulting…He is a former employee of Exxon and a spin doctor (public relations). Has his firm been hired by anyone in connection with Guyana, and is he a lobbyist for Exxon? We should ask those questions. Because on the panel he was interjecting and trying to make things look rosy as well and make excuses by saying Guyana is new to the industry, but it is doing a great job so far, but he was not briefed on some basic facts.”
The Oil and Gas Consultant also took Minister Gaskin to task on some of his statements.
Dr Mangal said, “Gaskin referred to the naysayers, but those raising concerns are people who believe this is a big opportunity for Guyana, but who know that these opportunities are being forfeited all around the world. Look at all the countries, which have an opportunity with oil and gas, most of them falter and fail.
The naysayers Gaskin referred to are people who want the risks of this resource to be recognised and for the government to deal with the risks. The naysayers are those who are doing the most to make Guyana succeed. The naysayers know that singing kumbaya and hoping for the best will not help Guyana.”
Dr. Mangal added, “But right now, the government is not dealing with the risks and they are refusing to recognise the risks. When anyone brings up issues, the criticism is that you are too negative…”
The Oil and Gas Consultant is of the firm view that the current administration just wants to ride on the coattails of Exxon and collect the crumbs the company is throwing to them.
“They are not prepared to work hard for what Guyana deserves and what its people deserve,” the transparency advocate concluded.
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