The news that Guyana was closer to joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was well received in Trinidad and Tobago, especially by those of us involved in the energy sector. We learnt that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had launched Guyana’s EITI Multi Stakeholder Group (MSG), an important early step in the journey to EITI membership.
We of the Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Steering Committee welcomed the announcement because over the past four years we have been assisting Guyana in its preparation for EITI membership. This was done through workshops for selected persons conducted by us in Port of Spain and in Georgetown and through direct discussions with Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman.
The launch of Guyana’s EITI MSG took place a day after US President Donald Trump repealed the US Security Exchange Commission rule that required energy companies registered with the SEC to publish payments in excess of US$100,000.00 made to foreign governments for the exploitation of extractive sectors’ natural resources (oil, gas and mining). I note that some informed persons in Guyana are asking the valid question of what mechanisms are in place to ensure that companies like ExxonMobil, the main player in Guyana’s growing energy sector, make the same level of revenue payments disclosure in Guyana in future as they would have done before the repeal.
Clearly, Guyana does not yet have the necessary mechanisms in place to ensure full disclosure by extractive companies, whether in oil, gas or mining, but the government’s decision to apply for membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is an important step in the right direction. Guyana has to seek early EITI membership so as to begin to enjoy the many benefits that will accrue to government and citizens (www.eiti.org). Today, Trinidad and Tobago would have been asking the same questions about the Trump repeal but for the fact that it joined the EITI in 2011 and has developed a very transparent reporting system in which all energy companies voluntarily participate as can be seen in our annual EITI Reports (www.tteiti.org.tt/eiti-reports).
The impact on Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago of President’s Trump’s action will be somewhat negative, if only because it strikes a blow against our governments’ decision to promote transparency and accountability to the local extractive sectors. However, the blow is not fatal because the US Dodd-Frank Act 2010 that gave rise to the SEC disclosure rule that now has been repealed, also gave birth to similar legislation and rules in the EU’s 28 countries, Norway and Canada which remain in force.
Therefore, the foreign companies that currently operate in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago’s energy sectors, and others that may come in the future, are or will likely be, subject to the disclosure requirements of other international jurisdictions.
As companies voluntarily participate in the EITI in other countries, and because it is generally accepted that transparency is good for business, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago can expect from them no less commitment to transparency and accountability and support for the EITI reporting process in our countries. This practice is already well established in Trinidad and Tobago and will be introduced in Guyana after it achieves EITI membership.
Therefore, on balance, we in Trinidad and Tobago are not overly worried about the Trump repeal and Guyana might note that when considering its own position on the matter.
Our Multi-stakeholder Group Steering Committee will continue to lend support to Guyana and share our experiences so as to ensure that it gains EITI membership in the shortest time possible and begins to reap the benefits of greater transparency and accountability in the extraction and
monetizing of the country’s natural resources that are owned by the people and the revenues from which form an important part of their patrimony.
Chair TTEITI MSG