Mar 03, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Guyana’s oil sector expected to bloom exponentially in the coming years; however, several agencies evidently boast weak capacities and are ill equipped to handle this growth. With that in mind, Shadow Oil and Gas Minister, David Patterson, has challenged the governing administration to outline the fund allocations to ready the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) for their role in the sector.
He made those comments and more during his contribution to the 2021 budget debates held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC). Addressing the EPA, Guyana’s environmental watchdog, Patterson stated that ExxonMobil’s recent bout of flaring highlights the “weakness” of the administration for the sector.
The Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) pointed out that while ExxonMobil reported that it is flaring 16 million cubic feet of natural gas at the Liza Destiny FPSO due to a fault gas compressor, the EPA has to take the oil company’s word as gospel as it lacks the capacity to independently verify those figures.
In efforts to bridge that gap, the World Bank and EPA had worked hand in hand to develop a 36-member unit of highly skilled and experienced officers to undertake oil and gas on site monitoring. Recruitment was expected to be initiated with the 2020 budget however, the protracted elections and ensuing COVID-19 pandemic played a hand in deterring same. And while budget 2021 had allocated $609 million to the EPA, no mention was made of how much funding would be allocated to staff the unit.
Patterson told the National Assembly, “To date, not a single one of these skilled positions has been filled in this Unit. We therefore call upon the Honourable Minister to indicate where monies are being identified in the 2021 budget to fill these critical positions. This is of National Importance!”
Turning his attention to MARAD, the Shadow Oil and Gas Minister outlined that the agency is “wholly inadequate” to handle the oil sector. Patterson noted as well that the 2021 budget makes no provision for the concept of increasing the capacity of the agency.
According to Patterson, the Coalition government had applied to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a loan to fund capacity building and the enhancement of MARAD, but this, he added, has since “fallen by the wayside.”
Patterson lamented further, “The main purposes of budgeting are to set the goals for future actions, identify and implement the strategies to accomplish these goals and monitor your results to support these achievements.”
“If changes are not made to this budget, in terms of the goals and strategies, we are being set up by this Government for failure – Failure to keep promises, Failure to deliver a better life for ALL Guyanese,” he continued.
Moreover, Patterson added that another key area not mentioned in the 2021 budget is “Search and Rescue.”
“We just lost a boat without an engine, piloted by dead people and yet this administration has not allocated a single dime to ensure that we can build capacity in this most necessary activity,” he concluded.
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