Oil and gas economy will demand much more energetic approach to providing requisite human capital

Dear Editor,

Justifiably there continues to be anxious debate concerning the quantum and quality of human capital needed for Guyana to effectively address the multiple challenges envisaged in the creation and maintenance of a viable monitoring and disciplinary mechanism, to be applied to what some describe as the oil and gas sector. Indeed others perceive it to be a dominant economy of its own.

In any case, all agree that the restructuring necessary is so fundamental that it must be effected as a matter of extreme urgency, and as comprehensively as possible. It would therefore not be feasible for any one person, however qualified, to construct a vision and articulate a strategy that would take account of the range of identifiable components of this intricately new dispensation. Amongst them, the establishment of a dynamic human resources management capability should be of the highest priority, for there is an enormous gap to be filled in this area of management and development, even right now.

At this critical juncture, there simply is no comparable institutional experience in the Public Service on which to rely. Rather, the constipation in Personnel Management is palpable. The current incumbencies (or encumbrances) at whatever level, would be distinctly inadequate to cope with the required change process, that is assuming that there is someone capable of pointing them in the new direction.

The point to be emphasised is, that it is already too late for the necessary informed start-up of this vital organisational transition (one which could not have been envisaged in the (un-implemented) Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service.)

Yet, it is instructive that the Report made reference specifically to Human Resources Management – a concept and practice totally ignored by the Department of Public Service and its principals. It is therefore quite unlikely that any useful advice could emanate about a relevant reconstruction.

Worse, is the fact that for too long there has been entrenched the fallacy of ministerial decisions about job placements – down to some inconsequentially low levels, ignoring the specific authority and role of the ‘Personnel’ functionary, however senior, and despite the precarious outcomes of such a process.

The oil and gas economy will literally demand a much more energetic approach to providing the requisite human capital, a significant proportion of whom will apply to new and upgraded technologies. A new knowledge foundation would have to be laid, with the aim of ensuring a high level of a capacity to adapt to predictable (and unpredictable) challenges that will have profound implications for our education system. The latter would have to be comprehensively redesigned in order to install a range of programmes to be taught at various levels, all aimed at engulfing future generations of students with an oil and gas intellect – in preparation for the full depth of understanding required.

This of course means that their teachers would have to be appropriately re-oriented. Where then does one find the creative capacity to confront these developmental challenges; in addition to the design of new organisational structures, accountability relationships, and critical international communication systems and procedures – among the issues and facets that may well have to be captured in the mundanity of job descriptions, or better, terms of reference. There would be very likely the question of performance-based compensation packages to be developed based on agreed criteria specific to this sector.

The international nature of its operations is but one of several important reasons why the energy sector management should not be circumscribed as a Department of any traditional Ministerial structure. Certainly, it deserves no less autonomy that obtains at Guyana Power & Light, Guyana Water Inc., GuyOil and others. The sterility of public service departmentalisation conflicts substantively with the creativity which ENERGY will demand. (Just contrast with the relative slump in decision making in respect of so-called reconstruction of a most traditional sugar industry.)

Amongst others, an enlarged and more sophisticated human resources management capability will have to address such issues as

– establishing values for distinctive categories of skills

– creating a slate of incentives for attracting international recruits

– assessing the individual contract period

– identifying the range of skills necessary for support personnel

– devising answers to inquiries about employment conditions which could apply to the family of an international recruit, more particularly health and education, as may relate to children in the first instance.

There is much more to be considered, one factor being how late we are in preparing to manage an oil and gas economy.

Recommendations are invited as to who should be members of a recruitment panel, and the nature of the score sheet to be utilised!

Yours faithfully,

E.B. John

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