Back in December, at the Guyana Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (GCCI) Annual Gala, it was my privilege to last share the stage with Minister Trotman. He announced at that event the great advances several industries – gold, diamonds, bauxite – had made in 2016 and committed to put before the government in early 2017 the initial building blocks for a modern oil and gas regime to prepare Guyana for the transformational change that is to come.
Though I didn’t have the chance to publicly say so that evening, I would like to recognize here the great achievement of the Granger administration to collaborate with Guyanese and international operators and investors alike to create the climate for these advances, while also promoting the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The two are not mutually exclusive. My government, moreover, congratulates the honorable minister in following through on his commitment to put forward draft legislation soonest on oil and gas, and in a manner that includes all stakeholders.
The view from the United States on this exciting and new industry for Guyana remains exactly the same as back in December.
The private sector, along with Guyana’s government and civil society, will play an integral role and share responsibility for shaping the future of the country. As Guyana continues to develop new industries and the regulatory structure and processes that will govern them, your role as citizens, as well as business leaders, will only grow in scope and importance.
Guyana is at the cusp of a transformation. Recent estimates confirm that offshore oil deposits may be as large as 1.6 billion recoverable barrels of oil, with additional resources yet to be quantified. Estimates continue to change, each time growing larger, and as these numbers grow so too the expectations of the Guyanese people.
I think we all can agree that legislation and regulations that protect Guyana’s interests and promote transparent resource management at all levels are key components to success. The list of important legislation for the industry is vast and spans across the spectrum, from a Petroleum Act to regulations for a sovereign wealth fund; licenses and fees for the new industry and; occupational, health, and safety standards.
Not just the government, but the people of Guyana have an incredible opportunity to define the country’s future. That future starts with a carefully calculated strategic plan of action – formed from the collaboration of all stakeholders – that targets job creation, investment, and long-term revenue management.
Overall, Guyana’s economy has been doing well, and it is projected to continue on this path. The confirmed petroleum reserves guarantee Guyana the revenue to allow it to develop industries and infrastructure, and to create a broad-based economy, with true value added, which means jobs and prosperity, if done right. It also means that Guyana will have the money to fund activities that will allow it to be even greener than it already is.
It will be critical to think strategically now about how best to invest those revenues in ways that develop (1) diverse industries; (2) physical infrastructure and citizen security; (3) renewable and energy independence; and, (4) quality education and health services. These are among the areas that will create significant job numbers, not local content in the off-shore operation.
To put it bluntly, revenues can be fleeting, whether coming in or going out. That is why the establishment of a comprehensive sovereign wealth fund is the cornerstone of, or if you will crown jewel in, any new oil and gas regime. A sovereign wealth fund will provide Guyana with the opportunity to invest in its long-term future. Prudent management of incoming revenues will ensure that outgoing investments by the government in its people do not simply last for as long as oil is pumped out of the ground, but beyond that, through the creation of diverse new industries and projects. Such a sovereign wealth fund should be (1) transparent, (2) independent, (3) inviolable, and (4) non-partisan.
Certainly, Guyana is not and will not be alone in the road ahead. The United States, along with other partners, has and will continue to provide counsel and assistance in support of Guyana’s efforts to build industries – not just petroleum – that are transparent, responsive, and accountable to all. Similarly, the participants of this conference, both domestic and international, are here because they recognize Guyana’s incredible potential and want to be a part of Guyana’s future. We commend and support your decision to invest your talents and voices in Guyana, and hope that you will invite more to do the same. It will fall to all of you to continue to advance a vision and implement a plan. There is no amount of assistance that anyone can provide Guyana that can rival domestic political will, an informed private sector, and collaborative citizens.
In closing, we encourage you to continue participating in Guyana’s present and to keep building a better future.