Guyana yesterday welcomed a US$297,000 ($62.3 million) grant from the United States that will see the Carter Center assisting its efforts to become a candidate of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
“We will pay close attention to the benchmarks that have been set and which the Center will be monitoring in the course of the project,” Minister of Foreign Affairs and acting Prime Minister Carl Greenidge said at the announcement of the grant yesterday at the US Embassy in Georgetown.
“The Government of Guyana would like to give the public the assurance, that it will pursue this particular initiative assiduously … to the satisfaction of all and sundry,” he added.
The EITI is an international standard for transparency in extractive industry payments and receipts. “In countries participating in the EITI, companies are required to publish what they pay to governments and governments are required to publish what they receive from companies,” the organisation’s website states.
Greenidge pointed out that anyone who has followed the evolution of politics in Guyana over the last three or four years would know that the issue of governance has been at the forefront of debates. He said it is because of this that his government sees transparent governance as integral to the country’s development and it is why his administration remains committed to improving the well-being of the nation and the manner in which decisions are made.
As it pertains to the extractive sector, Greenidge, who is a former Minister of Finance, pointed out that they hold the economic potential to transform Guyana, making this country’s candidacy to the EITI even more important.
“In the case of the economy, the extractive industries have been a major focus of our attention and they offer the potential for transforming the welfare of Guyanese. The special feature of the extractive industry, is that by and large, that they are wasted resources and which makes it important that in managing those resources we do so effectively and efficiently and without the damage that can sometimes go with mining in general,” he asserted.
For his part, Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman explained that with a country whose economy is heavily based on its extractive industries, such as ours, it is integral that the sector be managed very judiciously. “In this context, EITI will bring many benefits to Guyana: an improved investment climate, a signal to international investors that the government has a clear commitment to transparency and good governance, and strengthened accountability, vis-à-vis the Guyanese people. Guyana’s entry into the EITI framework is not only because of oil, as our other resources must be better managed as well,” he said.
Trotman added that he hopes that by the end of this year, Guyana would have made great strides in advancing not only its candidacy in the EITI, but more importantly, strengthening the good governance and transparency initiatives, and democratic fundamentals that his government has committed to adhering to.
“Open, transparent and accountable governance of the extractive industries are integral to the sustainable development of Guyana, and we, as Guyanese, and in partnerships, must do what is right and necessary. The EITI, is both right, and necessary,” he stated.
The one year programme on ‘Advancing Transparency and Accountability in Guyana’s Extractive Industries’ will provide the project executing agency, the Carter Center, with the resources needed to facilitate a series of programmes with the Ministry of Natural Resources, that will help Guyana fulfil EITI compliance, United States Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway said.
“The scope of the grant is expected to assist the Government of Guyana – through the Ministry of Natural Resources – to develop the candidacy documents required by the EITI Secretariat. I am confident this programme will strengthen the work of the Government of Guyana in promoting transparency in the country’s extractive industries at a time when Guyana prepares to welcome future growth in the petroleum industry,” Holloway posited.
The Ambassador has told this newspaper that one of the ways that his government suggested for this government to achieve accountability and transparency, in the spending of the expected wealth from the extractive sector, especially petroleum and oil, was that it gain EITI candidacy.
However, he had underscored that at the end of the day it was the duty of the citizenry to hold their government accountable.
Yesterday, he echoed this stance, while stressing also the important role revenues garnered from the extractive industries can make to this country’s holistic development.
The American envoy explained, “I have said it before, but it bears repeating, that the significant oil find in Guyana has the potential to transform Guyana from one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere to one of the richest. However it will take careful and thoughtful planning by key stakeholders to make this happen. We have talked about Guyana creating a Sovereign Wealth Fund, and the importance of transparency and accountability. Today’s announcement is a logical step in the progression towards assisting the Government of Guyana to achieving greater prosperity for the wonderful people of Guyana.”
“In terms of job creation, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that while this significant oil find will create jobs in Guyana, it is offshore, and there are no initial plans for refining the oil in Guyana. This means that the real significant job creation will come about from the revenue generated from the oil find. The government, in consultation with other key stakeholders will be able to decide in what sectors and projects the revenues are to be invested… I have heard lots of Guyanese worry about Dutch disease. Well the best way to avoid Dutch disease is to invest the oil revenues in Guyana’s economy in a way that creates jobs and diversifies the economy. My point here is that in many ways, the Government and people of Guyana may have the best of both worlds – oil revenue and no limitations on where to guide job creation and growth. But first, the infrastructure must be put into place to facilitate the expected revenue and that is what we are trying to do with this EITI grant,” he added.
Carter Center Representative Jason Calder pointed out that during the project, his organisation intends, among other measures, to build on procedures that Guyana has already implemented, thus complementing the collaboration this country has established with the EITI secretariat, in neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago.
“The programme will involve collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana MSG [multi-stakeholder group] to build the stakeholder understanding, capacity and dialogue necessary for Guyana to comply with the EITI Standard; support the MSG’s review of laws and regulations necessary to identify the changes necessary for compliance with the EITI Standard and enable the government and MSG to develop an acceptable candidacy document and work plan for submission to the EITI Secretariat,” Calder explained.
He too stressed the benefits of Guyana’s compliance to EITI. “There is much more to EITI though. Reporting under the EITI also examines revenue allocations, intergovernmental transfers, company social expenditures, the process for allocating licenses and contracts, identifying the beneficial owners of companies in the extractives sector, and documenting the impact of the extractive industries on the economy,” he said.
Adding that the changes in laws, regulations, administrative systems and the way these actually work in practice and their accessibility to the public will receive regular scrutiny as part of EITI.
“Therefore, the role that EITI can play over time in setting and advancing the national agenda on issues of transparency and accountability can be significant,” Calder asserted.