By Kemol King
If a local content policy espouses transparency as its driver, then it must have provisions that make data open and available. Confidentiality provisions in Guyana’s local content policy are not necessary. They are unusual.
That sums up the views of the President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Nicholas Deygoo-Boyer, who appeared on the Monday edition of the Kaieteur Radio programme, Petroleum 101.
His utterances add to an already crowded discussion about the controversial provisions in Guyana’s final local content policy, released just days ago. The policy should ensure that locals participate and benefit adequately from the fledgling petroleum sector.
Whether it is fit-for-purpose, with the inclusion of confidentiality provisions, is a matter of contention.
Asked whether such provisions are necessary, Deygoo-Boyer told Kaieteur Radio – pointblank – “No.”
In a subsequent interview with Kaieteur News, the businessman described the provisions as unusual, comparing it to other policies, like that of Ghana.
Notably, the Trinidadian Expert on Local Content, Anthony Paul, produced Ghana’s local content policy. Paul also produced the first two drafts of Guyana’s policy, with no confidentiality provisions. When Dr. Michael Warner – with ties to ExxonMobil – was made to replace Paul, by the Department of Energy, Kaieteur News pointed out that Warner, lacking the experience producing such a policy, is a former employee of DAI, a company that had been contracted by ExxonMobil to establish the Centre for Local Business Development.
It was Dr. Warner who inserted confidentiality provisions in his drafts. And so, they remained.
The final policy states that Guyana shall approach the development of its petroleum resources in a transparent manner.
Deygoo-Boyer said, “How do you espouse transparency in a policy? You have to have reportable information that is fed into an institution like Parliament.”
“While I respect things like particular technology around maybe pipe-coatings or stuff being commercially sensitive, that’s fine. But that still doesn’t speak to [the level of employment of Guyanese workers, the amount spent procuring local goods and services, and the anticipated tenders]. That doesn’t need to be hidden.”
The GCCI head explained that a key issue across many of the headlines in public discourse is a lack of trust in government – “and this is Government as an institution, not Government as a political party.”
“So, therefore, how do you get around that lack of trust in government, as an institution? Transparency. You need to have information that is open and available. The world is trending towards open data.”
Deygoo-Boyer expressed the view that the policy is “rough around the edges”. He went on to explain other aspects of the policy and the recommendations that were made by the Chamber, after the publication of previous drafts.
It is expected that with the development of the sector – including that of the midstream and downstream aspects of the sector – there will be adjustments to improve it, as government works toward enshrining it in a legal framework. The policy states as much. The Chamber President expects improvements to follow.
Comments similar to that of the Chamber President were made by local content experts previously interviewed by Kaieteur News, such as Nelson Narciso Filho and Renee Tissot. They were also made by University of Houston Instructor, Tom Mitro, and Attorney-at-Law Charles Ramson.
The local content policy is publicly available on the website of the Ministry of the Presidency.
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