Government is confident in the persons handling negotiations and other matters pertaining to the oil and gas sector and will seek additional help as the case may be, Minister of State Joseph Harmon says.
What remains the prevailing factor for the David Granger-led administration is that the citizenry of Guyana receives the maximum benefits they deserve from revenues obtained from the industry when it comes on stream.
Harmon, speaking at Friday’s post Cabinet press conference, explained that so fundamental is the sector to government’s holistic developmental plans, that the President chose five ministers of his Cabinet along with Presidential Advisor on Petroleum Jan Mangal to form a committee to review all matters pertaining to the sector. The President, he said, calls the team ‘The Quintet plus One’.
“That group will identify the skills or skills set that is needed to deal with any particular issue,” Harmon explained.
“For us, we review where we are in preparation for oil and gas in 2020. We are doing now what is known as a table-top review. That is …all of the agreements that have actually been put into place as of now. …That team will report on all issues relating to the sector to Cabinet and ultimately all decisions pertaining to this sector will be made at Cabinet, where the President is the head of the Cabinet,” he added.
And as he pointed to international help government was tapping into, Harmon said that since Guyana was new to the petroleum industry, his government would not be too proud to seek international assistance from experienced, reputable and trusted persons and entities.
He pointed to an Inter-American Development Bank team that was in the country last week, at the behest of President Granger, providing technical and other assistance to ensure the nation is prepared for first oil.
“I can say to you that the team that came, this week, from the IDB, looked at financial arrangements, sovereign wealth fund arrangements and so forth. There is another team that looks at technical arrangements and another legal but these are all persons of international repute. …These are additional skills that we will embrace as we move forward in this area. It is not to say we have made a decision on this and this is it. We are basically embracing wider areas of expertise and these areas of expertise, as provided for by our international relations with banks, institutions and other governments,” he asserted.
“I can say that we have had extensive consultations with several entities, including Chatham House, IDB, Commonwealth Secretariat and [other] international bodies. So we are basically at this point accepting advice and will have to come up with what is known as best practice and what is in the interest in the people of Guyana.”
He noted that Dr Mangal comes with the experience and skills needed but that additional help will be sought as needed. “In addition…from time to time we will identify leading experts in the field of law, environment and with other negotiating skills …I won’t be able to say to you this is the particular company or individual doing the negotiation. In the Ministry of National Resources there are some in house capacities and capabilities, but that in-house capacity will be augmented by the resources which are available internationally and which we will use to our best interest,” he said.
The Minister of State said that while he could not immediately list the persons who negotiated for a move from a one to two percent royalty in the current ExxonMobil contract, the team was led by Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman.
According to Harmon, government has all confidence in that minister to lead the sector and to lead any negotiation, in the interest in the people of Guyana. So confident is government in Trotman’s capabilities that he is the head of the ‘Quintet plus One’ team.
And as Guyana moves to tap into international assistance for her emerging oil and gas sector, Harmon announced that Minister of Finance Winston Jordan will this month head to Vienna, Austria to sign an agreement with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ Fund for International Development (OFID).
The agreement between Guyana and OFID, Harmon said, will provide the opportunity for this country to benefit from this OFID’s resources to advance private sector, trade finance and public sector operations.