Constitutional reform still a government priority
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, has insisted that the administration remains committed to constitutional reform. The Minister was at the time speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo at the University of Guyana’s ninth round of Tain and Turkeyen Talks. This round focused on constitutional reform and whether efforts to have the constitution changed should be continued, or whether it should remain as it is. According to Minister Trotman, “The government of Guyana has made efforts to keep this matter on the front burner, we did make a manifesto promise for constitutional reform.”
The constitutional reform Bill was presented to the National Assembly for the first time in July 2017. A constitutional reform consultative commission Bill was drafted to pave the way for the establishment of a Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission. “We have worked on the Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission bill which is a large measure taken from the 1998 bill which was crafted during the seventh parliament and is now with the review committee of Parliament,” Minister Trotman explained.
A successful constitutional reform process must emphasise meaningful dialogue, negotiation, and compromise on the part of the government, opposition and citizens. In this regard, Minister Trotman added, “I believe that it is all of our responsibility government opposition, civil society, academia, youth, women all of us, we all have that equal responsibility.” Meanwhile, reports submitted by the initial steering committee indicate that the Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC) must be independent, representative and inclusive of civil society. The public at large must be provided with opportunities to participate in consultations. Public education is also to be a major area of focus. Other support agencies can also contribute their bit to the process of consultation and reform. “I dare say that the government welcomes every initiative to move the process forward,” Minister Trotman remarked.
RISE plugs constituency voting at constitution reform forum
Newly-formed civil society group RISE Guyana and other speakers at a University of Guyana forum on Thursday called for a return to constituency voting at general elections and there were also appeals for broad consultations on the reform of the constitution.
Represented by businessman Terrence Campbell, Reform, Inspire, Sustain and Educate (RISE) argued that while the 1999 Constitution Reform Commission accomplished much, it “erred when it recommended that the electoral system should remain that of proportional representation.” Some constituency voting was introduced for the local government system used for elections held last year.
Campbell told the gathering at the 9th Turkeyen and Tain Talks at the Pegasus Hotel that RISE has had discussions with the man-in-the-street, members of the government, the opposition and Guyanese in the Diaspora which “revealed an overwhelming preference for a return to a constituency-based system.”
According to Campbell, such a system would improve accountability and independence since Members of Parliament will need to focus first on representing their constituents rather than serving a political party and party leader.
Citing another recommendation from the 1999 Commission, Campbell asked why the involvement of individuals was proposed at the local but not at the national level.
“A repeal of the List System and post-election coalitions should all be connected with a return to a constituency system,” he stressed
He further argued for a restructuring of the Constitutional Court so that the hearings of constitutional matters can be expedited.
Reminding that an election petition filed in February 1997 was not determined until January, 2001 and that others filed by the AFC in 2006 and the PPP in 2015 slowly made their way through the system, Campbell contrasted this situation with Kenya’s Constitutional Court which took just about three weeks to hear and overturn the 2017 presidential election in that country.
He called for a Constitutional Court made up of at least five judges, including a minimum of two Appellate judges. The quorum for this Court would be three judges and appeals would go directly to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
According to Campbell, a Constitutional Court structured in this manner would minimise accusations of bias that persist since all constitutional matters are heard by the Chief Justice sitting alone.
Another area for reform identified was the appointment of senior public service and judicial personnel.
The argument is that candidates for the offices of Chancellor of the Judiciary, the Chief Justice, the Commissioner of Police, the Chief of Staff of the GDF, the Ombudsman, the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, the Auditor General, Director of Public Prosecutions and all other senior constitutional office holders should have parliamentary confirmation hearings.
According to Campbell, such appointments should require parliamentary confirmation with a two-thirds majority and the President’s power to make acting appointments should be removed.
He argued that a similar broad-based appointment procedure is responsible for the respect enjoyed by the German Constitutional Court.
Additional suggested reforms included the public right to propose legislation directly to the National Assembly and a removal of the restriction on those holding dual citizenship running for seats in the National Assembly.
RISE recommended that legislation proposed by members of the public should be accompanied by a petition signed by at least 20,000 qualified electors, while citizens resident in Guyana for at least three years prior to the election should be eligible for seats even if they have dual citizenship.
A repeal of the article regulating Technocrat Ministers is another area of reform proposed since, according to RISE, it “restricts the President’s ability to involve competent persons from civil society in the process of governance.”
Currently, Article 103(3) gives effect to the 1999 Commission recommendations on the number of Technocrat Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. No more than four Ministers and two Parliamentary Secretaries are provided for.
The group has also taken aim at presidential immunities, campaign financing and a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
It was argued that whilst the immunities of the President were reduced based on the recommendations of the 1999 Commission, they should be reduced further so that the President becomes clearly answerable for acts personal and official once he demits office.
Noting that the political system in Guyana favours the established parties, RISE argued that the ability of governing parties to hand out contracts and to co-opt the resources of the state generally gives them an overall advantage. RISE has asked that at the minimum all donations above a certain threshold must be disclosed, donations from foreign citizens and businesses should be illegal and independent audits of the records of all individuals, political parties and political action committees participating in national elections should be mandatory.
“Violations should result in the forfeiture of seats and imprisonment,” Campbell stated, before calling for details regarding the proportion of oil revenues that will be assigned to the Sovereign Wealth Fund, the type of investments that can be made both in terms of risk and ethics and the criteria for withdrawal to be entrenched in the Constitution.
Campbell was one of eight speakers. The others were Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Chair of the Women and Gender Equality Commission Indra Chandarpal, Rosemary Benjamin-Noble of the Rights of the Child Commission, Shameza David of the Guyana National Youth Council, Jean La Rose of the Amerindian People’s Association and elections commissioner Vincent Alexander.
The majority of the speakers expressed the view that any process of constitutional reform must reflect a clear mandate of the people of Guyana even as they noted that any reform process will not address the current failures to adhere to constitutional provisions. The talk sought to address the issue of Constitutional Reform and asked its panelists whether Guyana should “court brave change or leave well enough alone?”
Alexander noted that since Guyana’s constitution is its people’s contract, it should reflect the people’s will.
In his seven-minute presentation, he reminded that the process of reform itself must reflect the principles of good governance by being inclusive, open, equitable and transparent. Those involved in the process, he argued, must first seek national consensus on a renewed approach for constitutional reform and engage in a process that is research-based and consultative.
Speaking directly to areas of the constitution that might require revamping, Alexander noted that the ways in which decision-making bodies are established could allow the electorate greater latitude to decide their composition while measures to ensure constitutional provisions are honoured should also be included.
Chandarpal also stressed that any attempt to change the constitution must be done against the background that the process must be as broad-based like the 1998-2001 reform process and must involve countrywide consultations.
She also suggested that the Elections Law (Amendment) Act of 2001, which provides for one third of electoral candidates to be female, be included in the constitution as well as Sustainable Development Goal Number 5. This goal calls for states to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
La Rose spoke to the failure of the constitution to acknowledge the importance of land to the country’s Indigenous peoples.
“It is our home, our pharmacy, our supermarket. It is really important and this is not articulated in the constitution,” she stressed before also calling for the meaningful involvement of Indigenous people in the reform process.
Also calling for inclusion was the youth representative Shameza David. David noted that the reality of young people in Guyana does not reflect the reality of the preamble of the constitution, which directs that their rights must be protected and their potential recognised.
She stressed that in this case it is not the constitution which has failed but its execution.
She further called for cancellation of the list system by which legislative representatives are identified, while arguing that a constituency-based first-past-the-post system would foster greater accountability on the part of parliamentarians.
“We don’t know who our representatives are,” she stressed.
The Turkeyen-Tain talks is a bi-monthly thought forum to facilitate informed and respectful discourse on matters of public interest.
Political maturity, constitutional compliance more vital than their reforms
While many feel that much of Guyana’s political issues will be solved with proper constitutional reform, former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall is saying no. While he admitted that Constitutional Reform is important, Nandlall thinks that the solution to the issue is more fundamental. Nandlall said that Guyana needs more matured politicians who are prepared to stay true to the existing Constitution. The politician made his views known as he delivered remarks at the Turkeyen and Tain Talks 9, sponsored by the University of Guyana. The event was hosted at the Pegasus Hotel on Thursday evening under the theme “Constitutional Reform- To Court Brave Change or To Leave Well Enough Alone?”
At that forum, Nandlall was keen to note that his position as reflected in his opinions is not synonymous to the position held by the People’s Progressive Party of which he is an Executive Member.
Nandlall told those who gathered that the international community seems hell bent on Constitutional Reform. He noted, “The Carter Centre desires to see constitutional reform. The British High Commissioner has expressed his government’s disappointment at the slow movement towards constitutional reform. A team visiting recently from the United Nations, advocated for constitutional reform. Constitutional reform was a major plank of the APNU+AFC’s manifesto, at the 2015 General and Regional Elections.”
Nandlall said that academics and jurists alike have often described constitutions like ours, as organic and alive. He said that he subscribes to this view. “Therefore, like any other law, nay, more than any other law, our constitution must necessarily remain dynamic and under constant review with a view of reform, so that it can adapt to meet the exigencies of a changing and evolving society.” Therefore, said Nandlall, the nature and magnitude of constitutional reform must be driven and determined by the society itself, in which the constitution operates. That view is also held by the British as expressed recently by its High Commissioner, Greg Quinn.
However, Nandlall said that while Constitutional reform is important, it is not the prognosis to the many political and social ills diagnosed in Guyana. Nandlall said that the last major set of constitutional reforms occurred in Guyana in 2001, where about 200 fundamental changes were made to the then constitution. Nandlall asked, “Has our society evolved so drastically, over the ensuing 17 years, to precipitate the monumental constitutional reforms which are now being contemplated? I do not see cogent and compelling reasons being advanced for constitutional reform. Neither do I see, efficacious proposals of the reform themselves. In my view, only when these two sets of information become available for scrutiny, that one can make an informed decision on the matter. Therefore, I have questions.”
He continued, “Are we being pushed to constitutional reform because of foreign influence? Have we convinced ourselves that our constitution and the breadth of its provisions do not meet the needs of the people of Guyana and are therefore, ineffective and unworkable?”
Nandlall said that when public officials comply with constitutional measures and prescriptions, there is no room for a challenge to their actions on the ground of a want of constitutionality. Problems however arise, he said, when public officials either deliberately, or out of ignorance, violate the provisions of the constitution. “It is in these circumstances that some are wont to say that provisions of our constitution are ineffective and unworkable. I, however, respectfully submit that deliberate violation of, or non-compliance with, the provisions of the constitution in governmental affairs by public functionaries do not equate to ineffectiveness or unworkability of the scheme of our constitution, justifying an ill- considered rush to constitutional reform,” said Nandlall.
As a case in point, Nandlall noted the fact that the constitution insulates the Service Commissions from any direction or influence from any other body or authority. He said however, it is now public knowledge that in two successive years, two different Ministers of Government, wrote to two different service commissions, purporting to issue directions to them from the President, not to proceed with the discharge of their constitutional duties- a clear violation of the Constitution. “Does this render the constitution ineffective and unworkable, to justify its reform? I think not. And on this particular issue, what are we reforming the constitution to achieve? Would it be to remove the protective insulation with which these Commissions are clothe, so that they can actually be directed and influenced by extraneous bodies and authorities? I hope not.”
Further, Nandlall said that he is not oblivious to the fact that one major component of the reforms which is being canvassed, seeks to constitutionalize an arrangement for executive power sharing between and among the major political parties of the country. He called this a “noble ideal” but questioned, “Do the level of maturity, trust and magnanimity, which are the prerequisites for such an arrangement to work, exist in our political environment?”
To highlight Guyana’s “reality” in this regard, Nandlall again turned to more examples. He said that there is no greater constitutional expression of political power sharing in the current constitutional matrix, than the appointment of the Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary and, the appointment of a Chairman of GECOM. He said that in respect of all these appointments, the Constitution mandates processes which require the input of both, the Leader of the Opposition and the President. The appointments require the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition, before the President can make a final decision.
Nandlall noted that since this provision was introduced into the Constitution in 2001, no appointment has ever been made. Successive Leaders of the Opposition withheld their agreement from the appointment of the incumbent holders of those Offices. Not a reason was ever given. Nandlall said that in relation of the appointment of a Chairman of GECOM, a list of six names must originate from the Opposition Leader to the President, for him to select one for appointment. “18 names have been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition over the last nine months. An appointment is still to be made. A hitherto seamless and straight-forward constitutional process has suddenly become complex, complicated and controversial. Simple and clear language of the Constitution has suddenly become obscure, ambiguous and unequivocal.” Nandlall said that with those considerations, it is clear to him that “the need for constitutional compliance trumps the need for fundamental constitutional reforms.”
Turkeyen and Tain talks 8 - 'Youth, Crime and Violence'
The Juvenile Justice Bill will be presented to Parliament by month end, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said on Wednesday, while speaking on issues related to ‘Youth, Crime and Violence’ at the University of Guyana’s eighth Turkeyen and Tain talks.
Ramjattan was on a panel that included Pastor Eworth Williams, activist Derwayne Wills, and Child Protection specialist Patricia Gittens. Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifton Hicken, though slated to speak, was not present at the event.
The discussions, which invited comments and questions from the audience, touched on youth policy, constitutional reform, and the justice system, including how culture can influence youth to become involved in crime, and affect them once they become part of the system.
“In a study I did just recently, I looked at the relationship between parenting styles and juvenile delinquency. And what it showed is that our parenting styles in Guyana [are] literally… creating some of the issues we have with our youth,” Debbie Hopkinson, a member of the university’s sociology department commented. “Our youths are becoming violent because sometimes they’re abused, and sometimes they become a victim twice—first, by being abused, then when they wander away, the system also makes them a victim again. And that is something we need to look at…,” she added.
In response to a query from Hopkinson on the status of the Juvenile Justice Bill, Ramjattan stated that the bill is complete and will be taken to Parliament by the end of this month, when costing has been completed. The bill will then be debated in October.
Once passed, he said, it will do away with several archaic laws that are responsible for the incarceration of many of the country’s youth.
“In that bill, all the difficulties we have, I have made sure that the consultation process went through successfully — truancy, wandering, all those economic crimes are going to be abolished. All of them, and they are not going to be made crimes anymore because the days for that are long gone…,” Ramjattan said.
He further stated that policing authorities would have “far more stringent methods” to follow when it comes to the incarceration of youth and that provisions would be made at police stations to have rooms for juveniles.
After being called out by Dr Nigel Gravesande on what he said was a 0.7% budget allocation to youth, Ramjattan assured those gathered that this figured would be upped once monies became available.
“If we have to take our monies and do what is regarded as priority by all Cabinet, we have to do that. It does not necessarily mean that importance is not attached to others. And youth, especially, we feel we have to spend more money on and that is why of recent times—and this might sound again clichéd—we are making sure now that the bailouts that we will have for sugar will have to come to a halt,” Ramjattan said.
“… At the present moment, because of the fact that we do not have resources… sugar is not doing well, bauxite is not doing well, only gold it would appear is doing that well and until such time as we have a better day with an oil revenue stream, we have to start making some serious decisions, and we have started making those already,” he added.
Ramjattan noted that the government in its mandate of youth development has been guided by a number of published reports, including the United Nations Report on Violence against Children; Crime, Violence and Development; the Citizens Security Survey; and the Paramaribo Declaration on the Future of Youth in the Caribbean Community.
Acknowledging that a lot of reports are usually churned out but shelved, the minister stated that there is a need to begin utilising the recommendations in order to “immediately walk the talk”.
He stated that among those recommendations is the need to provide skills training in at-risk areas, while referencing the Guyana Police Force’s programme that sees divisional commanders setting up youth groups within such communities.
He also made reference to the IDB’s Citizen Security Strengthening Programme, one of the components of which is to train 25 students from across 20 communities in areas such as carpentry, masonry and electrical engineering, and providing them with a US$70 allowance so they are able to attend the nearest skills centre.
“I know that it is going to be a difficult task solving this thing because it is somehow …young people feel that they could do the wrong things because the wrong things are being done by everybody, high and low. And when a culture starts that bad habit of young people thinking that that can be done it is going to be very, very dangerous,” the minister said.
Wills had shared similar sentiments in his presentation.
“We must be mindful of the images our youth are fed – particularly our men. Everywhere I look, I see the lucrative spoils of celebrated local kingpins who walk amongst us. We must also be mindful of how these images shape the value systems of our youth, particularly men, in their pursuit for success,” Wills had stated. Ramjattan had also made reference to how parenting and the socialisation process affect how youth relate to crime.
Shedding light on the inefficiencies in the justice system, Wills spoke of what he called “indifference” on the part of magistrates as it pertains to the sums assigned for the granting of bail to persons who hail from impoverished communities, and criticised the outdated legislation that results in scores of persons being incarcerated for offences such as narcotics possession. It was on this note that he referred to the recent events as a correction of the system.
“I was prepared to stand here and champion many causes for reforms – in the prison system, in the modus operandi of the police, in the judiciary… but the prisoners of Camp Street have accomplished in a matter of days what activists have championed for years,” Wills stated.
“…These are continued acts of defiance against the system and its agents for unnecessarily long trials, inefficiencies in the police prosecution system, exorbitant bail amounts… just naming a few… Justice delayed is justice denied. And the Camp Street prison fire remains a radical act of defiance which has forced the system to correct itself,” the youth activist further said.
"Too much procrastination" - Ramjattan
CITING procrastination regarding various reports, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan has called for more action on recommendations relevant to youth, violence and crime. At the same time, a call has been made for the authorities to place emphasis on youth involvement in the decision-making process of the country’s policies regarding the nation’s youth.
Speaking to a packed room at the Pegasus Hotel on Wednesday night during the University of Guyana‘s (UG) Turkeyen & Tain Talks, Ramjattan noted that there have been a number of reports which form part of the government’s strategy which centres on youth, crime and violence. These include the United Nations Report on Violence Against Children in the Caribbean as well as the 2010 UNDP Citizens Security Survey, among others. Noting that they are all major reports, he said such reports would remain on the shelves over the years.
“We have to start utilising recommendations of these reports to immediately walk the talk,” he said, noting that if such is not undertaken, the results can be detrimental.
Ramjattan told the gathering that from such reports, there is a correlation cited between young people and drugs or alcohol, noting that if someone is going to be a standout from the youth ages, that person can be affected by factors such as unemployment or poverty. Touching on the recent Georgetown Prison unrest, he informed the gathering that information from the prison hierarchy indicated that out of every five prisoners, only one can read.
He said this is relative to the entire prison population across the country’s prisons. “It’s very serious,” he said, noting that the government has a number of findings and recommendations which will be effectuated. He said the issue of skills training is being addressed, noting that in each police division across the country, the commander of the division has been tasked with developing social programmes which integrate children into progressive projects “especially those who may have come from dysfunctional families”. The minister noted that such programmes have proved to be effective since they have impacted positively in communities which in the past had high crime rates. He said having received the recommendations, the priority ones are addressed and funding is sought for such programmes.
WORKING WITH GANG MEMBERS
Pastor Eworth Williams of the Heavenly Light Church in Cooper Street, Albouystown noted that the church has been working with gangs for a number of years. Speaking on the subject of youth and violence, he said the church is not only about the four walls, but rather an avenue which persons can turn to in difficult situations. He spoke also of the prison population and posited that all prisoners would have had experiences in the church, temple or masjid.
However, according to him, the reality is no one would have noticed such persons and this would have led to such persons choosing a life of crime. “So what has happened is that they would have turned to things that would make them noticed,” Williams said. He informed the gathering that in Albouystown, there are approximately 48 main gangs, of which 26 are said to be notorious. The church, he said, has a good relationship with the gangs, noting that from time to time, he would meet and have discourse with the gang members, “because we believe that if we don’t touch them, then someone else will”. He also said it has not been an easy task, noting that at times the church officials would wonder if the persons engaged would really change their lives. He noted, however, that there are examples of those who have worked to change their lives. “We have a part to play, especially as a church,” Williams said. Youth advocate Derwayne Wills, who spoke at the event, called for more youth involvement in the decision- making process. He said there are many questions which demand answers. He said when the government changed in 2015, many anticipated the setting up of a Ministry of Youth. Wills suggested that this should be reviewed by the authorities. He noted that there is a national youth policy while legislation relative to youth is being addressed. However, he called for accountability of various constitutional bodies which have oversight over the nation’s youth. “What we need is action, to fix the system’s short-comings,” Wills said as he called on the authorities to meet the youth half way.
University of Guyana Health Sciences student, Patricia Gittens, spoke on the issue of mental health. She said there is need for the authorities to place prevention of crime and violence on the front burner. Gittens said the good news is that there is hope in that direction. The forum, which was moderated by Professor Ivelaw Griffith, Vice-Chancellor of the university, attracted a large turn-out. It concluded with a discussion between the panel of presenters and the audience.
Article adapted from: https://guyanachronicle.com/2017/07/13/too-much-procrastination
Guyana hopes to invest more cash in youth empowerment from scrapped sugar subsidy, oil revenues - Ramjattan
Guyana hopes to surpass Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica in the amount of monies it gives to youth empowerment and employment by scrapping a multi-billion dollar subsidy to the state-owned Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) and injecting more funds from oil revenues when production begins in 2020, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan says.
“This why we are making sure that the bailouts now that we are having on sugar will have to come to a halt and understand that,” he said to applause Wednesday night at a University of Guyana-organised public forum on Youth Crime and Violence.
“We will not be bailing out sugar and we have a plan for that and so there will be some more money that can go into some other sectors and rest assured that we are going to up that 0.7 percent to more. I cannot tell you how much more… No, no, no I am being realistic here. We have to be realistic. If the economy produces much more and the price of sugar gets up high, you’ll expect us challenging the other two other countries in the percentage rather than being half Jamaica and just one-third of Trinidad,” he said.
Speaking in his personal capacity, Registrar of the University of Guyana, Dr. Nigel Gravesande highlighted that Guyana’s budgetary allocation for “direct youth empowerment” is 0.7 percent compared to 1.5 percent in Trinidad and Tobago, and 2.3 percent in Jamaica. “That is the statistical reality and the most recent UNECLAC (United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) report that I have seen spoke to a direct correlation in youth violence and economic empowerment,” he said at the forum.
Gravesande questioned the Public Security Minister about whether there were short-term, medium-term and immediate plans to structure the economy to focus on sustainable youth empowerment through increased monies in annual national budgets.
He reiterated government’s position at a time when authorities are grappling to manage the fall-out from last Sunday’s fire that destroyed the Georgetown Prison on Camp Street. The opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) has already criticised Ramjattan for using the state of the sugar industry as a scapegoat.
The Public Security Minister acknowledged that more money needs to spent on empowerment, education and employment opportunities for youths. With a number of Guyana’s sugar exports not doing well, he said government has had to decide on its priority areas for spending scarce cash. “If we have to take our monies and do what is priority by our Cabinet. It does not necessarily mean that importance is not attached to others,” he said.
Ramjattan suggested that with more revenues going into the national treasury from oil, Guyana would be able to spend more on a number of areas. “Until such time that we have a better day with an oil-stream revenue, we’ll have to start making some serious decisions and we have started that already,” he said.
The Public Security Minister said it is time to implement the numerous recommendations contained in several reports on crime and violence among youths in Guyana and the Caribbean. “”We in the Caribbean, we in Guyana do a lot of reports. Somehow, that has to stop. We have to start utilizing the recommendations in those reports to immediately walk the talk as it were because we sometimes don’t do that and we do that to the detriment of all of us” he said.
Painting a picture of the reality confronting authorities, he said youths are affected by unemployment, poverty, alcohol and drug consumption- youths smoking marijuana as early as 11 years old.
Concerns were also raised about virtual illiteracy to the extent that only one in every five youths detained can read and there are also declining performances at high school and university among males . “We have a number of things in these reports from which we have to move on,” he said.
Ramjattan said authorities also have to address poor parenting, reduce risk factors and ensure that sport facilities ate made readily available to youths.
The state of youths has been thrown in the spotlight following an attempted bank robbery allegedly involving two qualified professionals and a number of members of the Guyana Police Force.
Turkeyen and Tain Talks: Guyana's Emerging Oil & Gas Sector
The University of Guyana’s Turkeyen and Tain Talks held its seventh meeting in New Amsterdam, Berbice on Wednesday, on Guyana’s emerging oil and gas economy.
Present at the talks were Director of the University of Guyana, Berbice Campus and Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Ivelaw Griffith and Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman among others.
According to GINA, Minister Trotman told the students and other persons gathered for the Turkeyen and Tain talks that the potential they have heard that Guyana has is real. The Minister noted that the oil which was discovered in 2015 is estimated to have a minimum of 800 million barrels and a maximum of 1.4 billion barrels of oil.
Minister Trotman also made those gathered aware that in addition to the first discovery of oil, there have been two more which may not be as large as the first, but are considered to have a significant amount of oil. Production of the oil is expected to begin in 2020 by ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation and Nexen companies.
Strengthening legal framework
Minister Trotman noted that with the discovery of such a large quantity of oil and gas, the government thought it necessary to strengthen its legal framework. The Minister pointed out that unless there are systems in place, Guyana would not be in a position to handle production and benefits of oil production. Hence, Minister Trotman noted that the government has begun the process of reviewing Guyana’s Petroleum Act of 1986 which he said is quite dated.
Minister Trotman also pointed out that in addition to reviewing the Petroleum Act; the government is creating new laws. Two new laws have already been created, he said. This includes the Sovereign Wealth Fund which is with the Minister of Finance, and the Petroleum Commission Bill which was recently read for the first time in the National Assembly.
Kiran Mattai, Oil and Gas Attorney stressed the importance of having the necessary laws in place that relate to the oil and gas sector. According to Mattai, with Guyana being an emerging economy and oil and gas economy, it needs to be able to appreciate the ownership of its resources while encouraging international relationships. Legal training she said “must account for the host country discovering the oil and the company exploring for oil.”
She highlighted, “For legal training, the lesson in preparing for oil and gas is recognising that oil and gas is only a piece of the puzzle; there must be complementary interdependence to achieve sustainability.”
According to GINA, Professor and Director of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology, Suresh Narine stressed the importance of training. He noted that while training may take five to seven years, with Guyana expecting to receive oil by 2020, it is something that must be pursued.
According to Professor Narine, nothing is wrong in accepting that Guyana has poorly trained business people, engineers and scientists. In order to fully benefit from the wealth expected to come, Guyanese have to divorce themselves from thinking that all roads to success are paved with intentions on oil and gas.
“We have to ourselves, begin to train our students, advice our children, create our businesses in ways that look at those other sectors of the economy,” Narine explained.
However, Dr. Narine pointed out that there is (the) need for effective policies that will give the necessary guidance. He stated that, “without policy that allows the oil revenue to be channelled in an equitable, thoughtful fashion, the capital to ensure that those sectors of our economy which are more sustainable than oil is created, is not going to be wisely spent.”
- The University of Guyana