Feb 25, 2021 Letters
I read with interest the opinion piece by GHK Lall published in the Stabroek News edition of February 20, 2021, with the caption, “President Ali cannot speak glowingly of ‘One Guyana’ when he is the forefront of polarizing visions”. Notably, this particular author, GHK Lall, floods the local media almost every day writing about almost anything and everything in the public sphere – 99.9 percent of which lack credible meritorious substance and objectivity.
In Lall’s six hundred words of fluff, he based his argument on the local content consultation with key stakeholders which included the private sector that His Excellency recently held at the Arthur Chung Convention Center. In this regard, Lall cited former minister Patterson who lamented that the President did not officially invite the main Opposition to the local content consultation and as such it cannot be regarded as a full consultation.
Permit me to illuminate Mr. GHK Lall on this substantive matter which he is championing within the full context of the issue – ignored altogether by him. Mr. Lall must know it is ludicrous to accuse His Excellency of not consulting the main Opposition for more reasons than one.
Firstly, His Excellency invited the former President David Granger to a meeting of former Presidents to have open discussions on matters of national importance and moving Guyana forward. Lall would recall that the former President Granger declined this golden opportunity with absolutely no reason of acceptable plausibility.
Secondly, the Opposition often do not turn up to the National Assembly on many occasions to debate matters of national importance which they are paid for as Parliamentarians to conduct the nation’s business – by tax payers. What sort of representation is this? These acts are utterly disgraceful and should not be condoned.
Thirdly, the Opposition which was in Government for the past five years would have produced three draft local content policies – all of which were profoundly flawed and meaningless. In the previous Administration’s case – those draft policies were developed with limited consultations, pioneered by foreign consultants and low-profile government officials. Moreover, the recommendations put forward for five years by the private sector stakeholders were never taken into consideration.
In the case of the current government, a team was put together led by respected Guyanese professionals in the private sector including Mr. Carl Greenridge – who is the only distinguished and respected intellectual from the main Opposition political party. And, more so, the consultation was led by the highest level of Government – none other than His Excellency himself and almost all of the recommendations put forward by the relevant stakeholders during the consultation period were largely reflected in the draft local content policy.
Editor, permit me now to present a synopsis of my analysis of the draft local content policies done by the Opposition when they were in Government. To this end, the first draft produced by the previous Government and now Political Opposition, I concluded that “having thus benchmarked Guyana’s draft LCP to the LCPs of other established petroleum producing countries around the world, a number of inherent weaknesses have been identified. While the draft policy recognized in generic terms – the objective of local content strategies – it does not speak to the specificities with respect to how it intends to execute local content activities and/or strategies. For example, it highlighted that there will be a regulatory mechanism but it did not address the workings and functionalities of that mechanism. And it does not speak to a strategy of removing barriers (if any) for local firms’ participation, and what strategies will be undertaken for enhancing the contestability of local firms’ and Guyanese nationals’ participation as against international firms and foreign nationals.” Overall, the draft document mirrors an academic paper – albeit inadequate – rather than a pragmatic policy paper.
With respect to the third and final draft by the previous Government, the policy in particular speaks to the Upstream Sector only and the author (s) of the policy highlighted, in particular, that the policy “at this time focuses on the upstream oil and gas sector”, and “that the government is currently looking at the midstream and downstream sectors.” I point out that the third and final draft by the previous government before demitting office constitute the highest degree of disrespect, insult and lack of tangible intellectual appreciation and comprehension of the Guyanese economic structure, with due respect. Let me explain: a local content policy focused on the upstream sector is akin to no local policy at all simply because Guyanese stakeholders, business sector and the government combined, do not have the financial, technical and technological resources to participate in the upstream sector. The upstream sector is strictly for the big oil companies like Exxon. To put this into perspective, the Liza phase 1 development alone, for example, is US$5 billion which is greater than Guyana’s entire GDP. This means, that if you take all the money in the banking system, the private sector and the government of Guyana combined, it will not be enough for a single investment in the upstream sector.
Having said that, any meaningful and impactful local content policy for Guyana has to by default focus on the midstream and downstream sectors where Guyanese would be easily eligible and can easily build capacity to participate in that aspect of the oil and gas industry – that is the supply chain, support goods and services to the major operators and their contractors.
With that in mind, one may appreciate the fact that the previous government do not understand what is local content and especially since they had five years to develop the same and never got it right. Hence, what’s the point of engaging them in a consultation in this regard? To waste the government’s and His Excellency’s time? Absolutely not.
Not at all. It’s a waste of time, with due respect, to even engage the Opposition on these complex matters that they have demonstrated, evidently, that they do not understand these issues and how to deal with them nor do they possess the capability to so do.
As such, GHK Lall need to get himself in order, study these issues thoroughly before writing about them and offer a public apology to the President as he was way out of order in his missive to the press lambasting his Excellency with no justification.
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