Oct 07, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Among the numerous concerns, surrounding this country’s newborn oil wealth is local content. It has a couple of sides, which we will explore in some detail, since every which way that it is looked at, the picture is not encouraging.
The current local content problem is primarily focused on why Guyanese, owners of this oil wealth are not more in the mix of projects, goods and services, and the rest. In a nutshell, Guyanese should get much more but they don’t. It is clear that the PPP Government and its senior leaders recognise this, and are not pleased. At least, this is what one gathers from their public pronouncements and postures. It is perplexing, therefore, as to why Government and Leaders have not moved with more speed, energy, and determination to finalise, through laws and policies, that which we believe is a low hanging fruit. To put it differently, deal with Guyanese’s interests as a high priority. Address those interests satisfactorily and quickly, as it is not only obvious, but also rewarding on many fronts.
This being said, the other side of the local content coin is that Guyana does not have what it takes to compete in certain areas. It is worth repeating, so that there is no mistaking our position or thrust. In certain areas, we lack the skills, expertise, and experience, and those areas are crucial and pivotal. We can think of engineering, geology, and law, to name a few. On the other hand, we have more than enough transportation equipment and machinery for at least current needs, yet Guyanese are locked out. We have under-utilised manpower in such areas as accounting and management but these are off-limits to Guyanese. Moreover, Guyana has its fair share of Entrepreneurs whose talents and visions go abegging. In view of the flurry of on the ground activities occurring, it boggles the mind that Guyanese are by passed for outsiders. The key is that there is Guyanese Local Content which is simply ignored, or which comes up short repeatedly in the competition for the fruits of our oil wealth.
Some of this has been traced, by those left out of the commercial awards, to favours being returned by powerful political decision-makers to foreigners. Some to foreigners who monopolise certain places, at which levels the existing condition and mindset is as good as the 21st century equivalent of “Guyanese need not apply or bid or harbour any hope of making the grade”. The reality is that they do not. This is the unacceptable and angering state in which activities related to oil operate, at present. We don’t agree with any of this, don’t like any of it, and don’t have any hesitation in standing against this, and saying so repeatedly.
Further still, though the present is cause for much concern, the future of local oil and local content is even more worrying. The first handicap we are faced with as an oil-producing nation is that we don’t have enough specialist people of our own. As said before, those that we have don’t possess what makes us a knowledgeable and influential participant in our wealth. We have approximately 750,000 citizens in total, with a heavy tilt to a young working population in its prime producing years. It is a plus and a minus. They are of some numbers, but they are now learning and still not in a position to have their feet wet in the nuts and bolts of oil oversight, oil wisdom, and recognised oil prowess and power. Since all three are understood for what they mean, we are sitting ducks ready to be picked off.
Moreover, wherever a natural resources rush is in motion, the hordes of outsiders flock. It has been so with gold and oil in other places at other times. Thus, as we are overwhelmed, the opportunities that may have been available are quickly being gobbled up. Those with the capital and connections and corporate knowhow will outlast and overpower the locals. This has always been so before, and this is the same future that stares at, and could sideline Guyana’s local content ambitions. It is why some things have to be in place and made mandatory, where Guyana’s local content is concerned. If not, we will be spectators, and the boat will pass us by.
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