The discovery of oil and gas has catapulted Guyana to centre-stage in the regional if not global arena.
Many organisations and countries in the region and beyond are looking out for business opportunities, in particular Trinidad and Tobago, which is currently experiencing a significant dip in oil revenues.
Already, there are concerns raised by the Private Sector Commission that overseas companies are given preference over local contractors. This is in conflict with the government’s local content policy which provides for Guyanese to benefit, to the fullest extent possible, from employment opportunities, training, and business deals, among other areas.
It is interesting that President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana will pay a State visit to Guyana on the invitation of President Granger. Apart from cultural and ancestral ties, Guyana and Ghana also have the good fortune to benefit from huge off-shore oil and gas discoveries, which could have transformative effects on the economies of these two countries.
In the case of Ghana, the economy showed a significant bounce in 2011 with the initial impact of oil revenues. However, the benefits of that growth did not trickle down to the bottom due to a skewed system of reward which favoured the middle class and direct beneficiaries of the oil bonanza.
Moreover, the influx of foreigners and strong inflows of foreign dollars into the economy have pushed the cost of living beyond the reach of the average working people.
The above notwithstanding, the medium to long term economic forecast by the World Bank appear good, due in no small measure to a current stable political environment. The country has had a chequered political past interspersed between military and civilian rule. It was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain its political independence from Britain in 1957 under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, who is regarded as one of the four founder members of the Non-Aligned Movement.
There are valuable lessons for Guyana from the Ghanaian experience as the country enters into a new phase of development. One important lesson is avoid the temptation to put, as it were, all our eggs in the petroleum basket as happened in several countries such as Nigeria and Venezuela. Agricultural production should not be de-emphasised in favour of oil due to price volatility on the global oil market.