Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo is calling once again on the Energy Department to craft a robust Local Content Policy to ensure that Guyanese are put first. If the department fails to produce a “solid” policy, Guyanese will become “second-class citizens”, he warned.
At his most recent weekly press conference at his Church Street, Georgetown office, the politician lamented that opportunities are not being adequately provided to Guyanese in the oil and gas sector, which is now gaining momentum.
“Before the government changes, almost all of the opportunities for our people will be gone. I see the taxi companies coming in here from abroad…Tons of things. There is no local content policy. We will become second-class citizens in this country because this government doesn’t care; is not looking out for Guyanese,” he said.
Jagdeo took a jab at Trinidadian companies that are coming to Guyana under “opaque” circumstances, to take a bite at the budding sector.
“I don’t have an issue with Trinidadians coming here. I believe they have a lot of expertise in the oil and gas sector and we need skilled people etcetera, but they must come in transparently and Guyanese should have the opportunity to access the same resources they are getting,” he said.
The former Head of State further took a swing at Finance Minister Winston Jordan for comments he made at a People National Congress Reform (PNCR) press conference last month.
Jordan told the media that while having a local content policy is important for an oil-developing state like Guyana, its citizenry should not wait for it to be implemented. He advised that persons should instead go forth and get in on the action because while companies that come here to invest are also waiting for the policy to be completed, they are moving ahead.
“Local content [is] absolutely important; absolutely vital. But don’t wait for local content…Use existing legislation to ensure that we get parts of the pie while the local content legislation is being crafted and implemented,” The economist had advised.
Jagdeo said that the minister’s utterances do not bode well for the future of Guyanese desirous of entering into the oil and gas sector. He maintains that the government needs to act now.
“When the government talks about local content…[but] when are you [government] going to protect our people? Where are you going to have the courage to protect our people through a solid local content policy?”
The opposition leader’s concerns come days after the Head of the Energy Department, Dr Mark Bynoe, announced that in two weeks the citizenry would soon be able to view a draft of the policy. That statement was made on July 29 at a press conference held at the Ministry of the Presidency.
Dr Bynoe said that the draft will be presented to the private sector and other relevant stakeholders for their appraisal. He also stated that the final draft better defines what can be considered as local content and how it will be measured. The official said, too, that the department is focusing on the requisite framework to capture the local content data not just for ExxonMobil, but for all the offshore operators.