The newly formed Guyana Oil and Gas Energy Chamber (GOGEC) has been set up to ensure that there is inclusive stakeholder participation in the emerging industry, its Chairman Manniram Prashad says.
“We were formed to ensure that all Guyanese are aware of what is happening in this industry and to promote education…we want whatever benefits come from this industry must be felt by all Guyanese and not a select few,” Prashad told Stabroek News in an interview.
Another organization, the Guyana Oil and Gas Association (GOGA) was launched in October of last year and states that its mission is to promote a robust oil and gas industry here. GOGA says too that it will advocate for comprehensive, science-based policies and transparent market principles for the benefit of all Guyanese.
Prashad said that while “eyebrows may be raised” as to the many oil and gas organizations and businesses “popping up”, since the announcement that the country was preparing for first oil in 2020, GOGEC was people-based and not for profit.
“We have no problems with other oil and gas chambers and organizations as long as they are also for the people. We at GOGEC can serve as a complement to them and not to be seen as a competition. After all, if the same goals are there and it is for the benefit of the ordinary Guyanese, why not?” he questioned.
“We are not politically aligned at all, not at all, not at all, like not at all. Someone wanted to know if this was a govnerment organization and I wanted to say that this has nothing to do with government, this is a people’s organization. This is for the people,” he stressed.
Minister of Trade
Using his past experience as Minister of Trade, a position he served in during the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s (PPP/C) term in office and Chair-man of the Private Sector Commission’s Energy Committee, Prashad hopes to foster a desire in persons to develop the sector while at the same time edifying them on the complexities of the oil and gas industry.
He explained: “We want everyone to get involved. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean we want everyone to work on an oil rig or anything like that. We want to go to students, all over the country, and then tell people, what is oil and gas. As we in the Chamber learn, we promise to share that information, disseminate that information, so that everyone has some knowledge of what is happening in this sector.
“This thing is too big not to get everyone involved. I will lean on my experience; as former Minister of Trade, Advisor to the President, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Chair-man of the Private Sector Commission and member of many Boards. I am going back to my roots. We want to make sure that our children and our children’s children benefit from the future,” he added.
Prashad said that his organization has already reached out to other chambers and associations to form partnerships, as they plan for future works and programmes.
“We have been speaking to organizations in Berbice and met with the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, the Berbice Chamber of Commerce. We are broad-based and plan to reach out to every chamber, in Essequibo, Rupununi … in getting the message across, we need to get as much legitimate organizations on board and those too that want to get ordinary people involved…We are going out.”
The Chamber has already met with Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, and Prashad said that meeting went well. They discussed the Petroleum Commission Bill, which is now before a Select Committee in Parliament and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Prashad said that a key message he wanted to get across to the government now was to do with the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund and how it is modelled. Prashad posited, “We are talking about a Sovereign Wealth Fund and we are looking to Norway. Every-one seems to have seen a model that worked for Norway and feels that we should pattern after this. Norway may be an ideal model but when Norway discovered oil in 1969, they were already a developed country. This today is not the same for Guyana.”
“So, I made the position known that we can’t follow that pattern slavishly. We have to put a model that works for Guyana now. In the same breath, we also don’t want to suffer from the Dutch disease. We saw so many things happen to people who discovered oil and we must not make the same mistake. It is my hope that with GOGEC, the chances of developing Guyana holistically through oil, can be realized while we reduce and eliminate us suffering from Dutch disease,” he added.
He said that while only ExxonMobil is carrying on aggressive works, he hopes that other companies will see their success and also invest here, thereby generating additional finances for the country. “Other companies have interests offshore but only Exxon is drilling currently but we want more to come. The more companies come the merrier. The bottom line is whatever resource at whatever money comes out of it, the people of the country must benefit. It must trickle down immediately, especially the poor and vulnerable. We are going to work with anybody to get it done,” he stressed.
The GOGEC Chairman said that the organization wants the public to also know it was not aligned in any way to any political body and the non-profit organization will remain that way.