Apr 18, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Guyana-born, U.S.-based Mathematics Professor, Terrence Blackman, said it a little differently from what we have been saying repeatedly for a long time now. But what he said aligned very well with our thinking and public commentaries, as presented in this paper, and other channels in the Kaieteur media network. As reported right here by us, this Guyanese said, “We must not be cooks and servants for the oil industry” (KN April 13). We agree fully with and support this learned Guyanese professor on all three counts, on what we must not be content to accept and be, what we need to do, and how we must signal our position to the foreign powers in the local oil industry, with primary aim taken at ExxonMobil.
Professor Blackman said, “we must not be cooks and servants,” which at various times we have categorised as part of local content heights and future realities, including as cooks, and also as loaders and unloaders of ships and trucks; as maids and cleaners; and as chauffeurs and child nannies; and as garbage haulers and fetchers. From all appearances so far, this is the range and sum of local content, with the notable exception of the local blue chip companies and favoured insiders who are well positioned to capitalise at the higher and sweeter end of the oil industry pyramid and dealings.
In presenting this, we invite our readership – including government visionaries, senior public servant planners, local professionals and big shots, the watching and absorbing opposition, foreign arrivals and exploiters and rank and file citizens – to think of what we now present. As the foreigners come for the long haul, which could number in the years, they will most likely bring their families, inclusive of children, dogs and cats. They will have need and place for Guyanese local content. We point to the foreign embassies, in our first stop, and there they are: cooks and servants, guards and chauffeurs, gardeners and garbage disposers. Everybody is happy, since there is cheap labour, prestige associations (at least, in the minds of recruited Guyanese), and with the foreigners comfortable that they have done their duty and bit of charity, with the physical evidence present for all to see.
Now we invite our fellow citizens to pick a number and do a little multiplying. Try this first example: one foreign company comes to take advantage of our natural resources (gold, timber, and oil at the top of the barrel), and the little locals engaged could number in the dozens, scores, and hundreds, when all is said and counted. The bigger the contingent and wider the net of that single foreign invasion, the larger the number of locals employed at the bottom end of the job picture that the erudite professor mentioned. And the greater the number of foreign companies that rush to these shores of a modern day El Dorado and its endless bonanzas, the more Guyanese at the unseen, unheard and uncomplaining corner of the recruited job market will be occupied. This country could be very well on its way to realising a good fraction of those 50,000 jobs promised by none other than His Excellency, President Dr. Irfaan Ali.
Still, as the Hon. Minister of Labour recently disclosed, there are concerns about a level playing field, and especially as that relates to wages.
On a related note, this government recently announced a slew of online scholarships for higher learning. That is all well and good, but the capacity building, which Professor Blackman pinpointed is years away. It does not appear to be in the concentrations and quantities that are about gearing up to be well positioned for a place at the heights of corporate offices resident here and in their fields of fevered explorations.
When the leaders of the Guyana Government possess the strength, the acumen and the will to speak forcibly with the head honchos at ExxonMobil, then they would have put themselves in a position to “demand high end jobs.” Their position must be that Guyana has the people; that it is furiously building relevant capacity for more people to be strategically placed – including in the marketing and trading of our precious commodity – where they count; and those people must be accommodated to hear, observe and know exactly what is going on in the sector. That means their presence in the conference rooms, on the rigs, around the reservoirs, in the actual environments and in the trading market places, so that they can oversee for the returns that are of the highest value for the totality of the peoples of this nation. Currently, despite all the noise about local content, we are nowhere near there.
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