By Kiana Wilburg
With seven days left until General and Regional Elections are held, the major political parties have yet to offer for public scrutiny, specific plans on the development of the oil sector as well as the spending of revenues to come.
Instead, the APNU+AFC and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), have proffered some broad ideas about what they want to see in the sector, including some form of cash transfers.
On December 20, 2019, when Guyana started producing oil via the Liza Destiny, President David Granger had said that a Decade of Development Plan would be forthcoming. But even in his public remarks about the plan, Granger has said nothing specific about the government’s plans for the oil resources.
During a recent interview with Kaieteur Radio, Chatham House Associate Fellow, Dr. Valerie Marcel agreed that during this election season, citizens have a right to know the specifics and not just broad plans the contesting parties have for the sector.
Dr. Marcel also noted some important questions citizens should ask during this season.
“The first question I would have for politicians during this elections period is how will you ensure strong stewardship of the resource? How will you ensure that the interests of Guyana are well protected, that there is strong oversight of oil operations and that we keep Guyana clean, green and safe, that these are safe operations?”
The Chatham House Associate Fellow added, “I would ask them specifically, what policies you would put in place for associated gas? Will you bring it to shore, and to do what? Will you subsidize the gas? Will you bring oil to shore by pipeline and build a refinery and subsidize gasoline? Let’s get specifics on what the policies are for the sector.”
Dr. Marcel also said she would ask what exactly would be done to support the development of the non-oil sectors. Looking at the manifestos of both parties, the Petroleum Governance Expert said there are some ideas there but that is something worth debating nationally.
She said that one has to examine which industries, whether it is eco-tourism, bauxite or sugar, would have real potential for growth when the oil revenues start to flow. Dr. Marcel noted that it is going to be hard for these sectors to compete in the oil production era.
The Chatham House Associate Fellow concluded, “So I think having a discussion on how you will support the non-oil economy is where I would have a lot of questions. This is a critical juncture for Guyana…”
On several occasions, Chatham House as well as the Natural Resources Governance Institute (NRGI) have impressed upon the nation’s leaders, the importance of having a clear vision of their objectives with resources from the petroleum sector.
Both have stressed that this will allow the government to focus their energies and resources on the country’s top priorities.
Specifically, the organisations emphasized that the vision should be underpinned by an analysis of available resources and capacity, as well as opportunity costs and risks associated with the chosen paths for development.
Chatham House and NRGI have said, too, that a vision for oil should be strategic about choosing priority sectors and lay out in detail, the role each government institution will play in delivering that vision and over what time period.
They have both noted that good leadership, consistency of purpose and dedication as well as effective implementation, will be crucial to the realisation of the nation’s vision for oil.
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