Jan 12, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – When the few outspoken Guyanese around say it, the PPPC Government and its loyalists jump on them, and overwhelm with a wall of noise. We at this paper have urged slowing down, and giving ourselves time to get a full understanding of the riches that are ours, and maximize the benefits of our natural resource gifts. Like anyone who has messages that the PPPC Government does not want to hear, have no use for because they collide with its snaky visions, we have been dismissed. Now, it would be interesting to observe the Government’s reaction given it is a well-respect foreign institution that has made the same recommendation.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has cautioned that “Guyana’s oil sector moving too fast for small labor force-ILO -can slowdown economy” (KN January 10). There is no great sophistication in this warning from the ILO since what it tables is simple commonsense, business sense, and the sense that comes from long experience that something is being done the wrong way. Our workforce, in addition to being small, suffers from huge knowledge and skills deficits, which are already being exploited by the foreign companies doing business here, and with ExxonMobil at the head of the line.
Because of the local workforce being unable to keep pace with oil and gas developments, and falling farther and farther back, as the PPPC Government and Vice President Jagdeo charging ahead in pushing the oil companies to greater speeds of exploration and production. Even a cursory look at our Institutions and people overseeing the oil sector confirms the human resource gap under which Guyana labors. A deeper look is worse in that our shortages in many areas are highlighted, they leave us naked and vulnerable to the exploits of the oil companies, and those that support them. This is sure to lead to great inefficiencies as the gap expands, with severe impacts on the national economy.
What are we capable of monitoring to be vigilant in the management of our oil wealth? How many bodies do we have available to throw into the offshore oil frontlines? What Guyanese skills, and in what numbers, do we have to stand at the side of the skilled operators of ExxonMobil, Hess, and CNOOC, and be a brake on any suspect activities, any predations, or any dangers to Guyana’s self-interests and expectations? To be blunt, we are in the red in each of these areas, and that is for a while to come, as we just do not have any substantial capacity in the academic and skills pipelines that would help to be in a better position.
The ILO studied our education system and its output, and came up with what is ominous. The organization noted that 80% of our working age population did not advance beyond upper secondary school education. Its analysis then led the ILO to the conclusion that Guyana’s workforce needs would be six times more than what we have. This is not a workforce gap; it is more like an ocean that separates what we would need from what we have in our hands. Most in demand would be Engineers, Specialists in occupational health and safety, and those working in crews on the decks of offshore ships. We are going to need urgently people with technical and vocational degrees, which are rarities locally. In addition, our Welders, Riggers, and those learned in nautical systems would all need upgrading. The ILO also pointed out that of all our unemployed, under-employed, and workers who have given up, were to be available for recruitment, the supply of local labor would still fall far behind the demand for it.
For all these reasons and more, it is reasonable, prudent, and wise to slow down the oil and gas sector, so that we get a complete handle of our needs, what we have in hand, what we need to do to improve the labor situation, and how long will it take to get us to par. It is said that more haste, less speed. It looks like we are our worst enemies when we rush pell-mell into one project after another without grasping the damage that we could be doing to ourselves.
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