Minister of Natural Resources and Co-chair of the Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) of the Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Raphael Trotman says the government has started creating new laws and enforcing current ones to run alongside the initiative but it is still not prepared to release the contract which had been clinched with ExxonMobil in 1999.
Speaking last week at the fifth public outreach, which is aimed at providing information to the public in order to have a meaningful conversation, Trotman said, “Alongside this initiative we have started the process of reforms, adding new laws where none existed and of course enforcing laws that existed.”
He explained that the Government of Guyana “wants to do what is right and what is best” and even though the initiative is voluntary, and no country or private sector agency is compelled to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and become a member, the benefits are manifold. He added that while the benefits might not always be seen, being a member of the initiative puts the country in a better position to attract investment and to “proclaim to the world that we are a democratic state. We are interested in becoming a member of the EITI and we are committed to doing the best we can in terms of abiding by the principles of this noble organization. Government has given its full support.”
Trotman added that the government’s seriousness with the initiative should be noted by the fact that, “In November 2015, Cabinet resolved not just for us to issue a commitment but for the matter to be considered afresh and a decision was taken, an actual Cabinet decision that Guyana should move with full speed, and steady speed of course towards its membership.”
Trotman lauded National Coordinator of the Guyana EITI Rudy Jadoopat, for his efforts.
Trotman emphasized that the government’s commitment was not “just a wording of what we would like to do” since steps were being taken to ensure that local body becomes a member of the transnational body. He also pointed out that unlike other countries, the government has taken steps to ensure that all sectors of the MSG is equal.
“The germination of this process starts with the government and so long before industry and civil society came on board, the government took that decision to go on this route. But again, Guyana demonstrated it was committed to transparency,” he said, while pointing out that the government chose deliberately to ensure that representation from all the stakeholders was equal on the MSG.
He explained that while in some countries the government representation outweighs the other stakeholders, this government ensured that all of the sector were represented equally. He said that while he is dubbed ‘Champion of the EITI,’ he is still equal amongst the other representatives.
Trotman also explained that one of the reasons that the Guyana EITI was moving at full speed was because of the imminent oil and gas industry. He said it was not the government’s intention to “wait for certain fundamentals to be put in place when production starts.”
Also speaking at the event was Carter Center Country Representative Jason Calder, who discussed the effectiveness of the EITI. He pointed out that the initiative, which has been around since 2003, and encompasses some 52 countries, helped to establish a “global norm of transparency.” However, he said, that because it was of a voluntary nature, it was not immune to “backsliding”.
He also explained that at a country level it helps to increase inclusiveness, transparency and accountability and while it is effective at increasing transparency, it does not necessarily mean accountability improves, since the role of the initiative is only to arm the public with the necessary information regarding the extractive industries. In terms of the socioeconomic effect, Calder said, it was difficult to measure its long-term impact.
Jadoopat also made a presentation about the progress of the local EITI group. He reiterated that the organization is on the path to submitting its report in August, which will be scrutinized by the EITI, and if all goes well, the local body should be a member by the end of the year.
Presentations were also made by Hilbert Shields, representative of the industry on the MSG and Curtis Bernard, representative of civil society on the MSG.
During the questions and answer segment, Trotman was asked when the contract between the government of Guyana and ExxonMobil would be released. He responded, “Just to say that government is indeed considering all of the aspects of the release of the contract,” adding that particular aspects to the legislation “puts some restraints on the government releasing the contract. The legislation is under review as we speak and I believe that in due course we would make a determination. As it is currently, we are not in a positon to release, as per amendments to the Petroleum Act by the previous government…,” he added.
Trotman also announced that the MSG would be visiting the hinterland regions, after Toshao Lenox Shuman questioned why no visits had been made so far.