Ahead of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for technical cooperation between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said it should be made public, while warning that people will assume the worst about any secretive agreement.
Jagdeo told a press conference that given the secrecy surrounding the negotiations of the ExxonMobil’s production sharing agreement and the lack of resolve to make its contents public, which led to aroused suspicions, “it is not unreasonable for people to think the worse” of the MoU or any agreement that smacks of secrecy.
The MoU is scheduled to be signed next week but the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has called on government to defer it until it knows what the MoU entails,
Jagdeo said when people hear about issues affecting the state-owned Petrotrin in Trinidad, and statements from politicians in T&T wanting to link Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana “and our prosperity growing together as a region… I do not have a problem, as a person who is a strong advocate for CARICOM unity and us working together and enjoying shared prosperity when linking our fortunes.”
While adding that he supports the rhetoric of regional integration and doing more things together, he said when people hear about others sharing “our prosperity now” and they do not see the framework within which that would happen, they somehow believe they are going to be excluded from opportunities.
He said he noted that the T&T Prime Minister pointed out the limited opportunities in the oil and gas sector that would be available in Guyana unlike in T&T’s case where the oil comes onshore. In Guyana, he noted that the oil would be pumped straight onto the platform then into the vessels that would then leave Guyana’s maritime waters. “So you don’t have backward integration into the economy,” he said.
On the GCCI’s concern that Guyanese may be further pushed away from opportunities given the absence of local content legislation, Jagdeo said, “It is my belief that our people, Guyanese, must be the primary beneficiaries of the development of this sector.”
Where limited opportunities in the oil and gas sector are going to come onshore, he also said, “The hog share of those opportunities must go to Guyanese because it is our oil too.”
Nevertheless, Guyana is a part of CARICOM, sharing a trade agreement, history, and culture with the Caribbean Community and people move back and forth, he said, while adding that as a result Guyana also has regional obligations to reach out to other CARICOM countries. “It can be to our mutual benefit but there has to be reciprocity,” he said.
While an example of a shipment of coconut water being returned to Guyana was cited in highlighting how Guyana’s products have been treated in Trinidad, he said, “I can give you 15 examples of how phytosanitary restrictions were used to harm our products going to many CARICOM countries. We have to get justice for our people in regional trade.”
Guyana has always argued that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy has several components, such as the free movement of goods, services, capital and people, he said, but some countries only want to emphasise the first three.
“When it comes to people, we have had huge problems with our people being treated with dignity and respect,” he said. While countries have the right to enforce their laws when a non-national breaks their laws, he added, “They have a right to be treated with decency and respect. We have had big fights with countries over that.”
Guyana will get prosperous, Jagdeo added, but it will not happen in the short-term. “A lot of people think that next week or two years down the line they will be getting big bags of money. It is not so. It is going to happen if we manage things well. Things will begin to happen around 2024.”
He noted that a large pool of Guyanese live abroad and want to return home. “The way I see it, in the next 10 years or so, this will be the place to be, if we manage well,” he further said.