GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Aug 8, CMC – The Guyana government says it will establish a Petroleum Commission to ensure that the oil and gas sector is not subjected to undue political interference.
“More importantly, we will ensure that every cent of the revenues from the sector is accounted for, as well as every cent of it that is spent,” President Dr Irfaan Ali said at his Inauguration ceremony as Guyana’s ninth Executive President on Saturday.
Ali told the ceremony that there must be no doubt in the minds of the population that all of them as well as the country are the beneficiaries of the oil and gas industry.
Guyana has joined the league of petroleum producing nations with the official start of oil production at the Liza Phase 1 Development, announced on December 20 last year.
Ali said that to stimulate business enterprises, his administration will reduce the cost of energy by 50 per cent through a mix of hydro, gas, solar, and wind, adding more than 400 megawatts of newly installed capacity over the next five years.
He said high transportation cost will also be tackled through investments in a deep- water harbour, the Linden to Lethem Road, a high-span bridge across the Demerara River, and other transformational infrastructure projects.
“Our intention is to open-up every part of our country, and to join them up so that new opportunities are created for housing settlements and businesses, and to create and expand tourism and other services industries.
“We want to build a Guyana that is ripe with business opportunities, humming with employment expansion and growing perennially in prosperity. To aid all this, we will scale up the provision of internet access across the country empowering businesses and persons.”
Ali said that a vital part will be to train the population to take advantage of the opportunities and the framework.
“Our goal is to facilitate jobs for every Guyanese that wants to work, and to provide them with the skills they need. That is why we will invest in training and re-training our work force so that they can stake their claim in our nation’s prosperity.
“On this point, the workers of this country – the bedrock of our nation – have been made to suffer untold hardship. Once proud men who worked in the sugar industry from sun-up to sun down, never complaining about the back-breaking nature of their jobs, are today barely scratching a living. Their anguish is not only that they can’t earn a decent wage; it is that they cannot feed their families.”
Ali said that hunger and malnutrition abound and that these conditions do not reflect the Guyana in which “we were raised; this is not the Guyana we know. And, it is certainly not a Guyana we should allow to continue.”
He said that the sugar industry has virtually been abandoned in the past five years, and the workers have been deserted.
“No attempt has been made to seek a new path by which aspects of the industry could be salvaged for the production of profitable sugar-based niche products, that would maintain jobs, and by doing so maintain the dignity of labour.
“While we are still putting together the torn fragments, the picture of the industry appears deeply distressing. The assets of GUYSUCO (The Guyana Sugar Corporation) seem to have been stripped by NICIL in and disposed of in a criminal manner.”
Ali said that the once greatest contributor to the nation’s economy, “has been beaten down to its knees, and the workers tossed to a heap of unemployment and misery.
“We intend to raise up the industry and to help it, and its workers resume the once proud place in our economy. It is bad enough that I must draw your attention to the sore in the sugar industry that has been allowed to fester – neglected and forsaken.
“But, sadly, it is not the only sector of our economy where workers have suffered from poor policies of the previous administration that even more poorly implemented. The workers bore the brunt of this incompetence, inefficiency and irresponsibility.”
Ali said that his administration would dismantle the policies of the previous administration that created an environment completely unfavourable to workers.
“The people of this country must not be second- and third-class citizens in their own land,” he said, adding that the new Ministry of Labour will be tasked with the noble undertaking of creating nobility in work, of rewarding labour with adequate wages, and of respecting the rights of workers in every sector, every industry, every business.
“We intend to give workers the place of pride they deserve and the rewards that they merit. This land is our land – every Guyanese has a right to live in it, work in it and thrive in it. Our Guyana must no longer be counted as one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. We must no longer be scorned or treated contemptuously anywhere in the world,” he added.