Guyanese must become au fait with the oil industry

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to editorials ‘Missing advisor’ (SN, Feb 7) and ‘Guyana and oil’ (SN, Feb 6), Mr Wesley Kirton’s missive titled ‘Uncertified artisans could be trained for the oil and gas industry’ (SN, Feb 11), news item titled ‘People pressure can force changes to Exxon contract -Jan Mangal’ (SN, Feb 8) , and your several news reports on the oil conference (SN, Feb 6, 7, 8).

It as inexplicable why the government’s advisor on petroleum and a leading oil expert, Dr Jan Mangal was not invited to speak at the oil conference or play a deeper role in negotiations with Exxon. This conference was held at a most opportune time for our country in terms of economic transformation and employment and business opportunities, on all of which your editorials commented. Dr Mangal’s lecture, as your media reported, was well received at UG by a packed room on one of the days of the oil conference. UG students and staff seem to have preferred to listen to him than those at the oil conference.

His advice on obtaining a fair contract should be heeded. Why he was not involved in negotiating the terms and conditions of the contract are not clear. I travelled around Guyana speaking with people about oil. No one approves of the terms and conditions of the oil contract. They feel the country will be getting crumbs. On the US$18 million bonus, as you correctly editorialized, people feel it should be many times that amount. The kind of transformation your editorial makes reference to will not be achieved.

And Mr Kirton is absolutely right on the need for the re-training of workers for jobs in the oil and gas sector. Like Mr Kirton, I too would like to compliment the Ministry of Natural Resources and Guyana International Petroleum Business (GIPEX) for hosting this oil summit. Overall, the conference seemed to have been well organized to attract so many participants, although there was limited Guyanese involvement. There was a positive atmosphere and a welcoming spirit by the hosts. Based on feedback, the discussion and exchange seemed most fruitful.

The Oil (Natural Resources) Minister Raphael Trotman should also be commended for hosting this conference. He and colleagues outlined the ample opportunities for Guyanese in the infrastructure of the oil and gas sector, as well as in actual extraction, sale and refinery.

I thank the organizers of the conference. It speaks very highly of them. It is no small task to get exhibitors, experts, professionals, and service-related businesses from around the world to gather at a single site. However, a greater participation of local Guyanese was needed, and the organizers should have done more to encourage local participation. And as said above, Dr Jan Mangal should have been there to give his views on the budding industry in Guyana and Guyanese expectations.

Nevertheless, the oil summit was welcome at this juncture.  Given that we have virtually no skill or experience in the oil industry, such a conference is needed to internationalize the huge oil find  and to lure investors to help transform our economy. As one of your reports pointed out, the conference allowed for networking opportunities for both local and international businesses, with some of the global players in the oil and gas sector. Don’t underestimate job opportunities. The conference helped to sensitize and guide Guyanese towards the enormous business and job opportunities that will become available two years hence when oil will be commercially extracted off the coast. It also allows energy professionals and companies to meet and exchange ideas and opinions on offshore energy exploration, drilling and extraction. Aside from commentaries and editorials of a bad or inequitable contract between Exxon and the government, one must also look at the positives – job and business opportunities which was widely discussed at the conference by Guyanese stakeholders, the government and service companies.

I encourage Guyanese to familiarize themselves with the petroleum industry for which there will be huge job demands. As Mr Kirton stated, artisans should be re-tooled. In fact, everyone should try to retool to fit in with the new economy.

Guyanese must organize to maximize benefits for themselves and the development of the nation from the oil extraction. They must be au fait with the oil industry and learn the technology or skills that can land them high paying jobs and business opportunities in servicing the sector.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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