Ramnarine has given Caricom's only non-island member nation some very sound advice on how it should handle its unexpected bounty. All very sound advice, no doubt, but will it be taken?
Our former energy minister Kevin Christian Ramnarine has no intention of lying down and expiring, although he has been out of office for two years now.
And why should he? By virtue of his ministerial experience and his extensive involvement in the energy sector which spans many years, he is almost uniquely qualified to expatiate on matters relating to our most important economic activity.
That's as good a reason as any why my 16 or 17 readers should probably not miss his talk, which goes by the rather longish and intriguing title: "Slips, Trips And Falls Of Trinidad's Petroleum Industry: How Do We Recover? How Do We Compete? How Do We Continue To Be Relevant In The Region."
It's sponsored by a range of industry groups?the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Young Professionals Trinidad and Tobago Chapter and AAPG UWI Student Chapter, the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Trinidad and Tobago Young Professionals Chapter and SPE UWI and UTT Student Chapters.
The sponsoring groups provide the following teaser to lure you to the event: "Given that globally low oil and gas prices continue to persist, our petroleum production continues to fall and the worsening state of the local economy, we reflect on mishaps and missed opportunities, examine our achievements and chart our path forward, "points out Karuna Moonan, current president of the Young Kevin Ramnarine Professionals, Trinidad and Tobago Chapter, AAPG Latin America and Caribbean Region.
That "path forward" should be of particular interest to all of us, since it is imperative for our national economic progress that the oil and gas industry expands and not contracts.
The former minister should be very cognisant of what that involves.
He is on the move these days, having decided to take a keen interest in the development of the energy industry in Guyana.
Ramnarine has given Caricom's only non-island member nation some very sound advice on how it should handle its unexpected bounty.
He has told the authorities there that they should do the following:
1. Establish a Heritage and Stabilisation Fund with defined targets.
2. Use a component of the revenue from oil and gas to develop national infrastructure.
3. Invest in education for all nationals and train a sub-set in geo-sciences and petroleum law.
4. Build local content and local capability.
5. Link the energy sector to the financial sector, making it mandatory that a percentage of funding comes from local banks.
6. Do not subsidise petroleum products for the population, which creates tremendous inefficiencies.
All very sound advice, no doubt, but will it be taken?
Let's hear what Rafael Trotman, Guyana's Minister of Natural Resources (which includes energy) has to say about the way he intends to proceed.
He supports the idea of the Fund, as a means of salting away today's money for use tomorrow, when there may be much less of it or, perhaps, none at all.
Inconveniently, Guyana's offshore oil and gas discoveries come at a time when the country had signed on to the climate change agreement, which seeks ultimately to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy (RE), principally provided by the sun and the wind.
"We are committed to maintain the environment", Trotman stresses. "We are committed to going green. In Paris, we said we'd go 100 per cent renewable but we've suddenly been given the gift of a large fossil fuel find."
So what to do: Leave all in the ground and walk away? Neither the government, which could certainly do with the money, since Guyana is one of the regional grouping's least-developed countries, nor the explorer, ExxonMobil, are in the frame of mind to do that.
Norway is the country best know worldwide to have face the same challenge tat Guyana now finds itself facing and the latter plans to follow the Norwegian model.
This is to continue to build-up light manufacturing and services, along with the new industry.
Guyana does not have much industrial capacity, so it makes the task easier.
It is also proceeding cautiously on inviting other companies to engage in additional exploration.
" At the present time, we are not issuing new exploration licenses", Trotman stresses, "primarily because we need to understand what we have, before we go out there and saying we 'are open for business."
Norway is also assisting with the drafting of the new production sharing agreements (PSAs), which is the method employed by Guyana in is dealings with foreign companies (similar with the Trinidad & Tobago system, in fact.)
The Commonwealth Secretariat in London is also helping.
"We are receiving support from its natural resources and legal departments. The PSAs are also being looked at by a law firm out of Norway, assisted by another law firm, Jones Day out of New York."
The Petroleum Institute of Mexico is also been drafted in to assist.
Minister Trotman stresses that the government's "focus at the moment is on managing what is been discovered, putting value to it and preparing for first oil. As we growth in terms of confidence and competence, we could look on grating new licences."
Those in the know expect first commercial production in 2020, with initial output of 60,000 b/d, leaving the historic Caribbean producer Trinidad and Tobago trailing in its wake.
David Renwick / Trinidad Express - Business Express / June 21, 2017