Government is urging local businesses to help themselves by building capacity and actively seeking partnerships with international businesses on their own.
This is according to Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who, in his closing address on the budget 2018 debates on Friday, said firms want something out of partnerships, and as such, would not simply partner with local businesses.
“We don’t have the technology, finances, capacity. So how are we going to compete with these (international companies)?” a vehement Finance Minister asked. “All this talk about legislation, legislation, legislation…We have to creep before we walk!”
“If Chinese firms are coming and winning bids, what can we do? These firms are bringing a level of technology that we don’t have. A typical example is the Marriott. At what stage would the Marriott have been if it was built by a local company?” he asked.
The minister lambasted critics of the draft Local Content Legislation, saying that people are “suddenly waking up”. Jordan also said that the early setting up of the Sovereign Wealth Fund did not mean anything to the Government, as oil production wasn’t expected until 2020.
At a press conference last month, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) President, Deodat Indar, had expressed concern over the failure to meaningfully incorporate local content. He had noted that foreign firms are registering as businesses in Guyana.
Indar had pointed out that foreign businesses do not even seek joint ventures with the companies they meet here. According to the GCCI head, these businesses instead go out and bid for contracts on their own.
“There are businesses that were registered here, and I will tell you this from fact: the law firms in this country, most of them saw an influx of new registration of businesses from foreign companies,” he posited.
The GCCI President observed that the ‘buddying system’ he was advocating was either a JV (joint venture) or an associate arrangement. But he noted that, at the end of the day, the partnership must include skills’ transfer. He gave a few examples, including providing training or even building education facilities.
At the time of the press conference, the GCCI head had recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Canada. He related that, while in Canada, he was able to observe the oil industry in action from a legislative and operational perspective.
Government had formulated a Draft Local Content Policy which sets out its plan for ensuring that Guyanese develop socio and economic capacity from oil, a finite resource. In the plan, which was seen by this publication, Government has promised to work with stakeholders, including investors and skills development agencies, to design and deliver training programmes.
The document says this training will be for individuals and firms appropriate to the sector’s needs. Among other things, the document promised employment and business opportunities, as well as to implement appropriate legislation.
GCCI, after a review of the document, was not impressed. It has been reported in the media that the GCCI is dissatisfied with the document’s lack of specificity and the policy plaintively stating that few direct and indirect jobs can be derived from the sector.
The GCCI has observed that jobs such as maintenance crewmen, pump men, cooks and riggers are not being done by Guyanese, but rather by foreigners. The GCCI also noted that the University of Guyana should have been cited in the policy as the body to run courses and certifications for workers in the industry.
The Local Content Plan and what it will do for Guyana has been a burning question since it was announced that oil was found in the Stabroek Block. Expectations were initially tempered by statements to the effect that few job opportunities would be created by commercial exploitation of this oil find, but the company has since said it would help with Local Content delivery.