By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
Oil and Gas Consultant, Charles Ramson, believes that the future of Guyana’s oil is in the “weak hands” of Energy Department Head, Dr. Mark Bynoe — who he says has zero oil and gas expertise — and a foreigner, Matthew Wilks — who Ramson says is versed in representing the interests of oil companies and has “little knowledge about the specific needs of Guyana”.
Ramson is not the first person to stress the need for Guyana to pull up its proverbial socks and position itself in order to maximise benefit from its oil sector; the media has been saturated with information on Guyana’s weak state of preparedness for first oil and attorneys-at-law Nigel Hughes and Christopher Ram; former Presidential Advisor, Jan Mangal; environmentalist, Annette Arjoon; and quite a few foreign onlookers have similarly expressed their concerns. Nonetheless, the status quo remains.
Ramson thinks that there is a simple reason that Guyana is ill-prepared. He opined that the fate of the oil sector rests in incapable hands. The lawyer, who also has a Master’s in Oil and Gas Management, made no qualms about expressing that opinion during a recent interview with Guyana Standard.
Ramson said that the Bynoe-Wilks partnership represents the most reprehensible arrangement for such a critical sector.
The lawyer, who also practices oil and gas consultancy, told Guyana Standard, “We have no spokesperson who is an elected official speaking on behalf of the sector. We have this Department of Energy and its head, Dr. Mark Bynoe, is not an elected official so how is he speaking on behalf of the sector? What power does he have to act on behalf of the people? You have this guy [Bynoe] who has been overseas for God knows how many years and he is not known to Guyanese people, yet he was thrust into the position with no oil and gas expertise whatsoever.”
Ramson continued, “And you got this foreign advisor, Matthew Wilks who is advising Bynoe on what he should be doing or what decisions he should be making, in a country he knows very little about, and that for me is the most reprehensible type of arrangement that I have seen in a long time especially for such an important sector.”
Ramson said that if the government wants to correct the situation it can start by appointing an electing official to speak on behalf of the sector. He said that the nation needs to hear from someone who is clothed with power.
He stressed,” The Department of Energy was the wrong move for Guyana, it is not fit for purpose…The Government made a mistake with this.”
Ramson said that he is struggling to identify what has been accomplished from 2015 to now, either by the Government or the Department of Energy in preparation for first oil “especially since the legislative and regulatory framework remains virtually weak and outdated.”
Ramson noted, “There is no Petroleum Commission to regulate the sector, no Local Content Policy, no updated oil law or proper environmental legislation in place. There isn’t even a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan in place. And what is worse is that we have been slow in the development of our local auditing capacity to audit costs submitted by these oil companies.”
He questioned, “So what is it we are really doing? What can we point to, to say that we are proud of where preparation is concerned? Where this Department of Energy is concerned? The first FPSO will be here in September so come what may, oil production is moving ahead but the government has failed to put all the things in place that will ensure all Guyanese benefit in a maximum way… I just don’t feel satisfied with this.”