Dear Editor,The response by the Department of Energy to grave concerns expressed about the invitation to select petroleum companies to Guyana for face-to-face meetings is disingenuous.There is no need to sell Guyana’s share of profit oil directly. The share should be sold by the operator and should fetch the same price as the operator’s share. The price garnered for ExxonMobil’s share will be declared publicly to its shareholders and is a transparent, trusted and audited process. ExxonMobil cannot and will not lie to its owners (shareholders) and is closely monitored by capable institutions such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The same cannot be said for the process outlined by David Granger’s Department of Energy (DE).The DE is being facetious when it suggested that “The short-term first phase beginning this week will focus on setting national benchmarks for selling Guyana’s portion of its crude in the future”. One, the benchmark will be set by the sale of the oil lifted before our turn comes and two, each batch of oil is quality tested and sold according to those results.The DE confirmed that “Selected companies are invited to bid to buy Guyana’s product in the very short term”. The obvious question is why? Oil is sold on the world market daily, there is no advantage to pre-selling oil of unknown (but expected to be very high) quality. Should we, for example, accept a price US$2 higher than Brent Crude per barrel, it would seem a good deal unless the quality is higher and the world market price would be Brent plus US$8. In such a scenario, Guyana would have lost US$18 million due to undue haste. Given the present ravaged state of the Treasury, it is a risk we can ill-afford to take.Then there is the issue of “selected companies”, the DE stated that “This strategy was employed upon serious consideration of advice given by an international team external to the DE”. The DE gave us titles of persons but significantly fails to name anyone. The DE gave us a lengthy three-point explanation of the ‘logic’ employed in reaching the decision to adopt a self-described “novel approach” – an examination of the three points is revealing.In point one, the DE said the quality of the crude is not yet known. This is patently false; ExxonMobil has signalled that the crude is expected to be higher than the benchmark Brent. However, each shipment of oil is graded onboard the FPSO rigorously, oil companies do not buy or sell ‘pig in bag’. Any sale before testing is going to be below real value as companies will claim ‘risk’. Absolute hogwash!Point two states “The DE has been advised, by the Crude Marketing Specialist, that in order to take Guyana through this limited short-term phase, a few high-quality IOCs with a global refining footprint and integrated oil value chains would be best given an opportunity to support the DE during this incubation and launching phase”. Guyana needs to get the best possible price for its share of profit oil, what it seems to have gotten is high-priced ‘con-sultants’. Keep it simple stupid should be a mantra over at the DE; it seems they are easily confused or misled. Is Kevin Granger an advisor on the ‘international team’? is it a team or a gathering of cronies?Point three of the DE’s response states “Guyana’s main incentive in taking this approach is to establish a norm in terms of quality standard and quantity availability so as to prevent any possible down-pricing”. Again, if or quality is low, it will be tested before lifting and priced according to world prices, same if it is high, every shipment will be tested and priced this way, in a very open and transparent process. That is unless we deviate from the norm during the ‘face-to-face’ meetings.The DE asserted that there is no untoward motive hidden in the request for face-to-face meetings and then, only with ‘selected’ companies, but I would suggest that when men with guns and masks are in our house, Guyanese do not have to wait to be robbed to know that they are bandits. We also know ‘salla-walla’ when we see it.Respectfully,Robin Singh
Renewal of investment development dealThe Malaysian-owned Barama Company Limited will by August of this year know its fate as Government willNatural Resources Minister Raphael Trotmandecide whether or not it would continue its operations in Guyana.The company’s 25-year Investment Development Agreement comes to an end in October later this year, and Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman said Government was still to make a decision on the way forward for the company.“Cabinet has given the approval since last year for Government to enter into negotiations with Barama. That has been an ongoing process. We have been meeting pretty often and I hope to lay something before Cabinet by August for its consideration,” the Natural Resources Minister told Guyana Times on Monday.He said following his presentation to Cabinet, a decision would be made.Trotman said Government remained committed and had no difficulties in doing business with foreign companies; however, its criteria were pretty simple.“Respect our laws, respect the people, particularly those who work for you, and respect your agreements that you signed,” he indicated.Government, in February of this year, commenced discussions on the possibility of renewing the $43 billion-dollar investment in Guyana.Late last year, Minister Trotman visited the company’s Buck Hall, Essequibo operations and met with the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Choo Siong Liew; General Manager Mohindra Chand, and Senior Manager with responsibility for Human Resources, Patricia Mingo.During that tour, Chand had reiterated that the company was determined to continue its operations in Guyana, stating that while it was faced with many challenges, it was committed to never closing its operations.Barama’s operations consist of forest management, timber harvesting and manufacturing of various wood-based products such as plywood, sawn timber, and flooring products.The Barama Company established its operations in Guyana in 1991, and is one of Guyana’s biggest employers, employing approximately 1000 Guyanese. It has been allocated some 1.6 million hectares of the State production forest and has been operating the largest forest concession in Guyana.
CJIA Expansion ProjectAs works are progressing on the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) runway extension, so too are works on the homes for the 19 families who will be displaced.One of the houses near completionThe Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) had previously stated that the affected residents will be relocated some 200 metres to the west of their current location. Construction on the identified plot of land has already begun and is expected to be completed this year.The developed area will be equipped with roads and utilities such as electricity and water while the homes will become the legal properties of the residents. There are currently 57 house lots in the piece of area developed to relocate the residents.However, during a visit to the site Friday, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson pointed out to reporters the location where the new houses are being constructed. He noted that the residents will have basic amenities such as water and electricity, things some of them do not have currently.Minister Patterson told reporters that two homes being constructed by Government are what the two families currently have. He explained that following discussions with the residents and with their agreement, officials from the Ministry of Finance’s Evaluation Department inspected the 19 homes and drew up dimensions based on what was observed.“You will see, we will be replacing what you have – no enhancement, no devolution. Obviously, they had the option if they wanted to do the extra and make (wood houses) into concrete houses but we are replacing what you have existing. You are not making any profits, you not making any losses but they will now be legally on the lands,” the Minister stressed.He noted that one of the commitments made with the residents were that those being relocated would get the bigger lots – 100×100 – while the others will have 50×100 lots: “It’s in acknowledgement that while they don’t have any legal standing here, we are working with them to have them relocate comfortably,” he remarked. (Vahnu Manickchand)
President David Granger on Thursday said the proposed salary increases which were put forward to the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) for 2016, will not be the same for the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU).“It is not my view that the GTU negotiations were part of the negotiations with the GPSU. I would have expected a separate arrangement to be made and I would say that the actual agreement between the Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teachers Union should be something which should be kept separate from the GPSU negotiations. We, as the Government, accept, we acknowledge [and] we observe the collective bargaining agreement and that is how the GPSU agreement was arrived at in the first place…,” President Granger said.He said that the payment, when made, is a preliminary one as negotiations continue.“Even with regard to the GPSU, the agreement, it’s not a final agreement. The Government of Guyana is still in engagement with the GPSU, so if it’s not final for GPSU, it can’t be final for GTU,” he said.During the recording of the Ministry of the Presidency’s weekly programme, ‘The Public Interest’, the President, in response to questions on whether he would have received correspondence from the Guyana Teacher’s Union on the matter and whether he had engaged the Union, President Granger said he had indeed received the Union’s letter but he believes that the Union should first engage at a ministerial level with the Ministers in the Social Protection Ministry.“As far as the trade union is concerned, yes I have received a letter and I have a Ministry of Social Protection and I would urge that the trade unions engage the Ministers first. It would be imprudent for me to overrule or override or try to deal with the unions without first giving the Minister responsible [a chance to engage]; and they are two Ministers in that Ministry. So it is important for the Trade Unions to engage her first and of course, the Minister who has specific responsibility for industrial relations,” the Head of State posited.President Granger said that conciliation was not necessary at this time, as he noted that talks between the Union and Government were not discontinued. He cited the fact that there is a menu of measures which have not yet been exhausted. He noted that because of Government’s preparation of the 2017 Budget, talks between the Unions and the Government needed to have reached a certain point by September so that a budget could be prepared.The President added, “The GPSU is fully aware that these matters are still on the table and the discussions are continuing. It is not a final offer; it is an offer which allows the Government to get on with its business and allow the public servants to enjoy the increase in pay to which we feel that they are entitled. We are still talking to the Union there’s no reason for conciliation at this stage because we are still engaged, it is not as though the talks are deadlocked but we are willing to move ahead and we can’t have the public servants suffering because of the slow pace of negotiations.”