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… says Guyanese losing hope that resources will transform their lives
— bemoans lack of scrutiny of PPP’s management of industry
Though Guyana has been producing commercial grade crude oil at a rate of 120,000 barrels per day for close to two (2) years, a large percentage of Guyanese have not begun to reap the benefit – a situation which has dampened the spirit of the masses, Winston Jordan, former Minister of Finance, has said.
Jordan weighed in on the country’s Petroleum Sector during his recent appearance on Buxtonian Morning Time on KAMS TV – a virtual programme hosted by Political Activist, Kidackie Amsterdam.
The former Finance Minister, who served under the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Administration, said that the most recent oil discovery at Whiptail in the Stabroek Block, Offshore Guyana resulted in no euphoria among the masses, simply because Guyanese are losing hope that the industry would act as a catalyst for their development.
U.S oil giant, ExxonMobil has said that there are more than 2,600 Guyanese supporting the Oil and Gas Industry on and offshore Guyana – a more than 20 percent increase when compared to the end of 2019. Notably, ExxonMobil and its key contractors have spent approximately US$388M with more than 800 local companies since 2019.
But not withstanding an injection of US$388M into local businesses and the advancements within the Oil and Gas Sector, Jordan believes that large businesses have gotten the lion’s share.
“…In reality, a small, and even smaller clique of people are emerging as the great beneficiaries of this oil wealth,” Jordan said, as he pointed to a recent report which indicated that a small group of businessmen will be injecting up to US$600M into the development of a shore base and container terminal. The consortium of local businesses includes National Hardware Limited, Hadi’s World Inc and ZRN Investments Incorporated. Hadi’s World Inc is owned by local business tycoon Nazar ‘Shell’ Mohammed, while National Hardware is owned by another business magnate Nicholas Deygoo-Boyer. Gold Miner, Andron Alphonso is the proprietor of ZRN Investments Inc.
AFRO-GUYANESE & THE OIL SECTOR
Jordan contended that when compared to other ethnicities within the country, Afro-Guyanese have not been able to effectively tap into the Oil and Gas Sector as is being done by the local business tycoons. Afro-Guyanese, he contended, are lagging behind.
“I don’t know if the African community in Guyana can put together US$6M or US$60M much less US$600M for one activity – a shore base,” the former Finance Minister posited, even as he pointed to the large amount of wealth amassed by businessmen like Mohammed, Alphonso and Deygoo-Boyer. “How many African Guyanese own anything in the Oil Sector? Anything? Anything, whether they are providing transportation, or food or supplies to be shipped or oil block, or shore base, none, as far as I know,” Jordan said but admitted that he could be wrong.
Though Village Voice Newspaper was unable to ascertain the net worth of businesses owned by Afro-Guyanese, it has confirmed that a small number of those businesses have been providing products and services to the Oil and Gas Sector. “I could be wrong but I am sure if you find any, and you find out how much is it that they are getting it, it would not even be able to measure in crumbs off of the master’s table,” Jordan said. According to him, Guyanese and more so Afro-Guyanese are beginning to realise that they have been “conned” into believing that they will benefit from the Oil and Gas Sector.
US Congressman’s plea
Only recently US Congressman Hank Johnson said Guyana’s wealth is for all Guyanese even as he urged the country’s leaders to work in building a more inclusive nation. “I am following closely the catastrophic floods in Guyana and my thoughts and prayers are with the Guyanese people during this extremely difficult time. Guyana has experienced substantial economic growth in recent years, but the COVID-19 pandemic and this national emergency threaten to erode some of those gains. It is important that every person affected by this disaster is able to receive the support they need to rebuild their lives in the shortest possible time,” Johnson said.
The opposition APNUAFC has accused the government of discrimination in the distribution of flood reliefs and also the much maligned $25,000 Covid-19 cash grant.
“Guyana’s wealth is for all the people of Guyana, irrespective of their ethnicity. I urge the current government and leaders of the opposition in the National Assembly to work together towards further strengthening Guyana’s democracy and building a more inclusive nation,” the congressman said.
“As a longtime friend of Guyana, I stand ready to work with international partners to support Guyana in the face of this devastating challenge.”
Another Congressman Albio Sires had echoed similar sentiments, urging that the country’s revenues benefit all Guyanese. Sires the Chairman of the Congressional sub-committee on the Western Hemisphere in a statement had said: “In Guyana, where I travelled this year, we should work to ensure that proceeds of oil revenues benefit the entire population,” he had said at a forum on US-Caribbean relations. Sires said that: “As I said during the trip to Guyana, we want to engage all actors in Guyana including businesses, civil society, the current government and the opposition to advance inclusive economic growth.”
LACK OF SCRUTINY
Meanwhile, the former Finance Minister also submitted that since taking Office in August 2020, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration has been allowed to manage the Oil and Gas Sector with little to no scrutiny, though the APNU+AFC had come in for heavy criticism over its perceived failure to take decisive action.
He pointed out that the last oil-related legislative instrument passed in the National Assembly was the Natural Resources Fund Act of 2019. That Act, however, has not been operationalized by the Irfaan Ali Administration. Jordan suspects that the PPP/C Administration is imposing a Kazakhstan Model on Guyanese. “The Kazakhstan Model puts the resource wealth generated from oil and gas into the hands of the President, the Vice president and the Minister of Finance,” he posited.
Jordan said with the Government facing little to no pressure to activate the Natural Resource Fund, it has opted to borrow finances from its bilateral and multilateral partners to avoid the rigid approval system the Fund demands.
The Natural Resources Fund Act stipulates the establishment of a Public Accountability Oversight Committee – a 22-member committee which will include no representative from the Government or Opposition in the House, and will ensure effective management of the fund. The Ali Administration has said that the Natural Resource Fund Act is unacceptable and will be repealed.
Currently, the Fund has well over US$344M inside based on revenues collected from Oil and Gas Sector. That figure, however, is expected to grow significantly with the production of more crude oil.
The discovery at Whiptail adds to the previous recoverable resource estimate of approximately 9 billion oil equivalent barrels.
ExxonMobil envisions at least six projects online by 2027 and sees potential for up to 10 projects to develop its current recoverable resource base.
The Liza Destiny floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel is currently producing about 120,000 barrels of oil per day.
The startup of Liza Phase 2 remains on target for early 2022, and the Liza Unity FPSO is expected to sail from Singapore to Guyana in late August 2021. The Unity has a production capacity of approximately 220,000 barrels of oil per day.
The hull for the Prosperity FPSO vessel is complete, and topsides construction activities are ongoing in Singapore with a startup target of 2024. The first Payara development well was spudded in June 2021, and the offshore SURF installation will begin in 3Q 2021.
Yellowtail has been identified as the fourth development project in the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana with anticipated startup in 2025. Following necessary government approvals and a final investment decision, this project will develop the Yellowtail and Redtail fields, which are located about 19 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of the Liza developments, and potentially adjacent resources.
These new projects are expected to aid in the advancement of the Guyanese economy.