Accelerate preparations for first oil – former US Ambassador
…as PSC bids farewell at Palm Court reception By Vahnu ManikchandWith just over one year remaining before US oil giant ExxonMobil commences oil production, the need for Government to fast track preparations for first oil is much more imperative.This is according to former United States Ambassador Perry Holloway, during a recent interview with a group of local journalists; his final media engagement in that post as his three-year tenure culminates.Guyana is now home to the world’s biggest new deep-water oil discovery and with principle explorer ExxonMobil pushing for the development of the oil reserves, production is scheduled to begin in 2020.Only last week, the US oil giant announced its 10th discovery, reinforcing the country’s potential to be able to produce more than 750,000 barrels of oil daily by 2025.The US diplomat said Guyana is about to experience something big that is also moving very fast, and while he commended efforts thus far by the coalition Government, he believes more should be done at a much quicker pace.“This will be the fastest any country would have ever discovered oil, deep water, and produced it basically in less than five years. So this is moving very fast. I do commend the Government, they have taken a lot of steps but this is really fast. So as it accelerates, the Government is going to need to accelerate its activities, if it wants to keep up with the pace of things,” he posited.According to the former Ambassador, there is no secret of what needs to be done with the plethora of advice and recommendations pouring in from other countries, including the US, and international stakeholder bodies particularly as it related to the setting up of what the Government has termed as the ‘Natural Resource Fund’ (NRF).“Guyana’s going to have to get its regulatory environment straight. They are working on it, they have passed some laws, they have the Department of Energy, they need to figure out how they are going to do – whatever it is called whether a Sovereign Wealth Fund or rainy day fund or green fund, but whatever when the money comes in, how do you manage it for the good of the future. There are a lot of models out there… Your politics change but you need to make it as not controlled by one or two individuals but by tight lines and priorities as much as possible,” Holloway stated.Noting that Government’s priority may very well be the same, the US diplomat suggested that education, health, security, infrastructure and agriculture be the top areas that the ‘oil money’ be injected into.“Believe me when I say this, this is more money than God has. There is going to be money to spend on 10 priorities if you have 10. The amount of money will not be Guyana’s problem it is how do you spend it… how you protect it and save it for the future, that is going to be Guyana’s problem,” he asserted.In August, Government laid a green paper titled ‘Managing Future Petroleum Revenues and Establishment of Fiscal Rule and a Sovereign Wealth Fund’ in the National Assembly. The green paper on the NRF, had recommended a number of things including that Parliament be responsible for approving the annual withdrawal from the Fund.Turning his attention to those still skeptical of the anticipated ‘transformation’ that oil will bring the country, Ambassador Holloway contended that while Guyana is expected to see massive development over the next seven to 15 years, there will come a time when oil is not the answer.“You have countries like Venezuela who had more oil than any other country in the world and people are starving. They are going through the jungle in Region One to come to Guyana so oil is not an answer for everything if you don’t manage it wisely and know what to do with it… So it is good to be cautious and you should try as much as one can try to hold your Government’s feet to the fire,” he posited.In this vain, however, the US Diplomat is urging Guyanese to use this time as an opportunity to develop themselves so that they too can benefit from what is to come. He also called on the Government to do more to develop the country’s young people.“Try to get as smart as you can on the subject and get ready for it. It is going to be a rising tide that I believe will raise all ships no matter what you do. I think there will be more work for journalists, ships, accountant, engineers, carpenters you name it… You have to prepare the youth.This is a country where 50 per cent of the population is under the age of 26. They are the future leaders, the future everything of Guyana and if you are not providing them the education, the training they need then it’s not going to work out so well,” he asserted.Meanwhile, the Private Sector Commission hosted a farewell reception for the former Ambassador at Palm Court last week. Among those at the event were Chairman of the PSC Desmond Sears and other executive members.