Apr 17, 2021 Letters
Trinidad is snapping up prized oil business like a bear catching salmon in spawning season. Our CARICOM neighbour stands at the right place, with the assets in hand, and haul in the succulent fare that falls right in their grasp. Hopeful Guyanese waiting downstream are losing out.
There is no starting from scratch in Trinidad and the associated costly money outlays. It already has the full infrastructure required because of its own decades-long oil history. Because of that, its nationals feast on both cake and icing: due to the full works being already in place, and the country’s nearness to us, Trinidad can charge far less than we would (or could) and still make it profitable for itself, and more profitable for the likes of Exxon and others doing frontline business in Guyana’s oil sector. As a crude point of reference, say our charge for a service is $5 per unit; Trinidad could make money by offering the same at $2 each. That is a compelling reason why the real investment dollars, the valuable relationships, and flourishing business developments are happening in Trinidad; it can’t be beat as a favoured destination for oil business. It is sweetness of crude from our oil for Trinidadians and very sour for us, with thoughts of local content benefits looming large in the heads of many here. To be sure, a few blue-chip corporate entities here would get the opportunity to be part of joint ventures and consortia and the like. They could get something for building a storage bond for incoming inventory or some warehouse for downstream hazardous materials. Some old established names own (or lease) waterfront plots, which positions them well to capitalise sweetly. But the big-ticket business is being snared by Trinidad. And currently, there is not much we can manage to offer to counter the advantage of foreign companies engaging Trinidadian enterprises for our oil business.
Another thing: the Demerara River needs to be dredged to accommodate ocean going vessels. Fifteen-meter depths are required. Today, we are at around 7.5 meters, which is not going to cut it. Dredging may attract some interest, even some foreign benevolence for their own benefit, if the costs are not too prohibitive; but nobody wants to take ownership of ongoing maintenance of waters and ports in the capital city. It is big one dollar-wise, one that drums up lukewarm interest at best. Everybody at or away from the table knows that something must be done with dredging and maintaining, but nobody is raising hand, stepping forward. Thus, it floats.
As I see matters, Local Content is a dead horse relative to the prospects of ordinary Guyanese workers. The unskilled will have to be content with labourer toil; the semi-skilled and skilled will get by with some trickledown handouts. But only if all of them embrace a different work ethic: energy and drive, interest and initiative, consistency and adaptability. That is not what is at work today. Everywhere I turn, we lose.
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