Oct 06, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – The revenue stream from the burgeoning oil and gas sector must not stagnate on the coasts, but must trickle down to Hinterland communities in Guyana to ensure equitable development in the country.
This is according to Lorena Salazar, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) Chief of Operations and Guyana Country Representative. Salazar was at the time responding to a question, as panelist on the Guyana Basins Summit discussion, on ‘Ensuring Local Prosperity & Sustainability Through Robust Strategic and Investment Partnerships’ on Tuesday when she gave the charge.
To ensure the success of Guyana’s petroleum sector, she explained that decisions must be taken to diversify the economy which means not only targeting efforts to the oil and gas industry. As such, the IDB Country Representative who hails from the oil producing state of Ecuador also gave specific advice to the government to ensure each citizen of Guyana benefits from the oil boom.
She said it is critical to leave no one behind. According to her, “that means not just focusing on the coastland but also checking the Hinterland. What are the opportunities of the people in the Hinterland?” The IDB Country representative argued that the opportunities should not only be extended to the education and health sectors, but also in the areas of communication and access among others.
Salazar was keen to note that the future of the country is its people, hence measures should also be taken to explore the skills needed that may not have been taught in school. She pointed out, “So there are several areas that a country of new oil and gas should take a look and I would say that if I can compare to my country and other countries, I would say that that is the best part, of when a country focus on the other sectors (on) how to develop the country.”
Weighing in briefly, the High Commissioner of Canada to Guyana, Mark Berman said he “absolutely agrees” that the no one should be left behind in the development of the country from the oil and gas revenues. Offering his country’s experience, Berman said Canada has significantly invested in Indigenous communities and have also focused heavily on addressing women and gender equity issues. He believes, “these are very important issues that can be left behind and if you wanna have success, you have to ensure you keep your eyes on those balls.”
It is important to note that no Government official attended Tuesday’s opening of the conference. The Guyana Basins Summit will draw the curtains today at the Pegasus Suites and Corporate Centre, in Georgetown.
In the meantime, government has made it clear in the Natural Resources Fund (NRF) Act that the revenue from the oil and gas sector shall be used to fund national development priorities, including any initiative aimed at realizing an inclusive green economy. It did not specifically outline some of the investment areas, but made provision for an Investment Committee to fulfill this mandate. The Committee was appointed by President Irfaan Ali on August 30, last.
Meanwhile, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo has told Guyanese that the oil money collected each year for the two oil projects is merely enough to complete two projects.
The VP was at the time speaking in Berbice about two weeks ago when complained that the money received from the sector is “not a whole lot”.
He explained, “When you hear a lot about the oil money and we’ve collected about US$350 million per year so far, the first two years, you think it’s a lot of money. But the Demerara Harbour Bridge alone, the four-lane bridge, there is US$260 million and the hospital, the Children and Maternal Hospital that we are building which will be a World-class hospital for our children and women – specialised hospital with the best care that you can get like any part of the world that’s about US$170 million. That alone is one year of the oil money.” He went on to note that these two infrastructural projects alone could use up the funds gathered, without even considering the highways to be built on the East Bank of Demerara and other road works scheduled for their Region. Notably, the projects he listed are all geographically placed on the Coasts, with no major plans announced for the Indigenous communities.
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