The Guyana International Petroleum Business Summit & Exhibition (GIPEX 2018) begins today at the Guyana Marriott Hotel, in Kingston, Georgetown.

The inaugural summit is being hosted by the Minister of Natural Resources, according to GIPEX 2018’s very enhanced website, which includes a countdown clock – Days To Go – announcing,  by days, hours, minutes and seconds, the time remaining before the commencement  of the very auspicious occasion. The three day event includes a conference encompassing the first two days, a workshop on the final day and a trade show which runs throughout the meeting.

The Ministry of Natural Resources’ lead organizing partner is the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest), along with partner, Valiant business media of the UK.  The website informs that ExxonMobil is the strategic partner for the gathering, a local telecommunication corporation is the platinum sponsor and it also provides a list of the gold, silver, bronze and associate sponsors.

Under the caption ‘The Gateway to a Golden Future’ the site informs web surfers of why they should attend the event: “At GIPEX 2018 you can expect to meet key stakeholders associated with Guyana’s Petroleum Sector including Ministries, Government Organizations, Associations, Industry Experts, National and International Oil Companies … The event will lay the foundation to establish a dynamic relationship between the Ministry of Natural Resources, Guyana and the Private sector with full co-operation from other Government Departments…” It goes on to add that the summit will present unique opportunities for networking and building new relationships.

The topics being covered include Guyana’s Green Initiative:  Using oil revenue to remain green and pristine, Outlining why Guyana is the investment opportunity of choice, Providing Government priorities relating to the Petroleum industry, Defining the crucial steps and the role of the Petroleum sector to ensure the efficient development of Guyana, and Overcoming Challenges and Supporting the Growth of Independent, Indigenous Producers and Service Providers.

As of yesterday morning, the line-up consisted of twenty-eight speakers, which the site said was not the final list – “There may be slight changes to the list”. The speech-makers on the list include President David A Granger, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, Former Premier of Alberta Alison Redford, high ranking personnel from ExxonMobil and other oil and gas entities from around the world, and financial and legal experts.

Local speechifiers include representatives from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Conservation International, a professor from the University of Guyana and an engineering consultant. Conspicuous by his absence is the Government’s Petroleum Advisor, Dr Jan Mangal.

Dr Mangal was announced as an advisor to the government with much fanfare, last March.  “He will be advising us on the development of the petroleum industry. He will be advising the minister and the Ministry of Natural Resources on matters of policy,” Joe Harmon, Minister of State was quoted as saying at the announcement of the signing of Dr Mangal’s contract.

A press release from the Ministry of the Presidency stated that Dr Mangal has a doctorate in Offshore Geotechnical Engineering from Oxford University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Edinburgh. It listed his work experience as having worked in the marine and oil and gas industries for the past eighteen years in various parts of the world, including the United States, West Africa and the Philippines.

In a letter to this publication in August last, the Guyanese born and raised Dr Mangal pointed out that “the re-negotiation for the Stabroek Block was performed about a year earlier (early part of 2016),” prior to his appointment, whilst adding that he had not negotiated any contracts” between any oil company and the Co-operative Republic  of Guyana.”

Dr Mangal’s letter endorsed the President’s goal of the oil and gas resource benefiting the Guyanese people without corruption. However, he warned that “the risk of corruption is likely to increase with the advent of our oil and gas sector due to the vast sums of money involved, and with the complex transnational business structures.”

In September, Dr Mangal publicly voiced his opinion on the type of process that should be used for allocating the remaining oil blocks, advocating that the country should shy away from the “one-on-one negotiations” or “open door” method.

“There is a very serious risk of corruption with this method due to the lack of transparency and accountability. Most countries have abandoned this method as experts recommend against using it. Guyana should no longer be awarding petroleum acreage via one-on-one negotiations after the Liza discovery of 2015,” Dr Mangal stated.  He maintained his position that competitive bidding was Guyana’s best approach in order to maximize its return on its oil discovery.

In November, the government’s Petroleum Advisor further advocated  that the ExxonMobil contract should be made public amidst all the rumourmongering and the vehement denials being issued of a US$20 million signing bonus received by the Government of Guyana from ExxonMobil. Of course, the contract was subsequently released in December and the government’s denial of a signing bonus has turned out to be untrue.

“My terms of reference with the President, I had transparency as the number one item. So I constantly push for transparency. I believe that all contracts should be made public. Not only petroleum. Diamonds gold, timber these are all resources of the people and all of these contracts should be made public. That is my objective. I am an advisor and I obviously can only advise. That is continually my advice that these contracts be made public because in the long term that is what would help Guyana,” Dr Mangal was quoted as saying at the time.

Dr Mangal is only an advisor whose advice in the above regard appears so far not to have been heeded.

Anyone who wishes to hear Dr Mangal speak, can hear his presentation on a “Discussion on the Government of Guyana’s Vision for the Oil and Gas Sector” at 15:00 hours, this afternoon, at the Education Lecture Theatre, at the Turkeyen Campus of the University of Guyana.

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