Former Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud is now dedicating a significant amount of his time towards advocating for adequate local content in Guyana’s oil industry. But, Persaud has admitted that it is no walk in the park trying to advocate for local content in a country where even a policy is non-existent. He said that credit is to be given to ExxonMobil and its tier-one contractors but much more ought to, and could be done for local content.
During a recent interview with Guyana Standard, Persaud said that his decision to seriously pursue local content advocacy was born out of a desire to ensure Guyanese benefit and are involved in upstream, midstream and downstream activities in the oil and gas sector.
He was keen to note, “We must not only be relegated to handymen, cooks, cleaners, drivers and providers of other ancillary services. It is a passion I held since my stint as Minister of Natural Resources.”
Persaud said that in very recent years, he informally and formally encouraged oil companies and their sub-contractors to give priority to local/national content.
He told Guyana Standard that he has been advocating for local content with the Department of Energy, “the private sector and, yes, the oil companies as would have been seen in public statements as one of the earlier voices for priority focus to be given to local content before Guyanese are excluded.”
Local content advocacy can indeed be seen as patriotic. But, some say that doing so can be an uphill task when a country does not even have any written requirements. In such cases, to what standards should the companies operating in the country be held?
Asked about his, Persaud said, “The absence of a policy and/or legislative framework makes it less obligatory on the part of the companies and weakens regulatory oversight. Government cannot be seen as a passive player as it has an obligation to protect the interest and well-being of Guyanese even as we recognize the fact that companies are for-profit and are responsible to their shareholders/investors.”
But even without the policy, Persaud thinks that he, and others, have been able to make baby steps.
“What has been achieved so far, is the appreciation by the various players for priority to be given to local content. ExxonMobil and several of the tier-one contractors must be commended for their initial efforts, which I hope will be built upon. Also, policy makers, businesses and even the public are today more aware of the importance of local content and are demanding equitable participation once they satisfy the requirements and have the capacity. But we need to urgently develop the regulatory tool to monitor and measure local content in the evolving oil and gas sector.”