The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Energy Sector Cooperation between the governments of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, paving the way for cooperation in oil and gas between the two states, will proceed as planned next week, despite a call by the city chamber of commerce for it to be put on hold.
Meanwhile, the Guyana Oil and Gas Energy Chamber President Manniram Prashad has said that even though it has not seen the MoU, it will support it if it is in the interest of Guyanese businesses and the Guyanese people.
On Wednesday, Prashad’s colleague, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Deodat Indar called for government to hold off on the signing until the group has a clear idea of what the MoU entails. I am asking the government to hold on this and let the private sector see the MoU so we know it won’t be adverse to us,” he said. The situation has also attracted the attention of the Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo, who has asked that the provisions of the MoU be made public.
A statement from Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, said the signing of the MoU was “consistent with our rights and obligations within CARICOM and in keeping our relationship with Trinidad and Tobago.”
He added that the energy sector cooperation MoU, which will be signed next week, “is for cooperation in oil and gas.”
It was noted that it “is one of two agreements that we share with the Twin Island Republic.”
The first agreement was a “Framework Agreement,” which is described as a platform on which all bilateral cooperation is discussed. It was initially signed in 1999 and expired in 2009, before being renewed for a ten-year period in December, 2017.
According to Greenidge, “The MoU on Oil and Gas is more for cooperation on a governance level than it is an invitation to Trinidadian companies, which already enjoy the rights to establish businesses here within the framework of free movement of goods and services under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).”
The statement said all other questions would be answered at a press briefing being hosted by the ministry on Monday.
Sunday Stabroek first reported the signing of the MoU following an interview with Trinidad and Tobago’s Energy Minister Franklin Khan, who said since 2016 discussions had started between the two countries on a MoU under which Trinidad and Tobago would provide various forms of support to the oil and gas sector in Guyana.
At a political meeting held in southern Trinidad, in the heartland of the oil and gas industry, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that he should be travelling to Guyana next Wednesday to sign the MoU “which opens the way for Trinidad and Tobago companies to participate in that prosperity that is coming to the Guyanese, even if Guyanese oil does not come to our refinery.”
He had said that about two weeks ago the Guyana Government had sent a diplomatic note to the T&T Government indicating that Guyana was ready to sign the MoU.
He made his comments against the background of the announcement of the closure of the refinery of the state-owned Petrotrin, which will see some 2,000 workers laid off.
Meanwhile, in a release issued yesterday, Prashad, of the local energy chamber, said it was supporting “closer cooperation and collaboration with Trinidad and Tobago and all other partners in CARICOM.”
The chamber said it has noted statements made by concerned organisations among others regarding Guyana’s relationship with Trinidad and Tobago in terms of the MoU.
Though not privy to the contents of the MoU, Prashad said, “I support developing closer linkages with Trinidad and Tobago particularly in the oil and gas sector.”
He said that “mixed signals” were coming from Trinidad and Tobago’s politicians about the closure of Petrotrin’s refinery and its way forward.
He noted that while Rowley was saying that the refinery was losing billions of dollars, its equipment was old and country could not afford to upkeep it, the Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar was saying the refinery had some new equipment and it could be saved by, among other things, partnering with Guyana to refine its oil.
Given this scenario, he said, the oil and gas chamber is of the view that a careful analysis should be made of the refinery to see if mismanagement was a major contributing factor to its demise.
The chamber, he said, “will work with the government, all local business organisations and all investors from Trinidad and Tobago and further afield to help us develop the oil and gas industry for the benefit of all Guyanese particularly the poor and vulnerable.”