Yesterday’s online edition of SN featured four separate articles about oil, the most important of which were reports of speeches by the Canadian High Commissioner and the US Ambassador. In her farewell address, Ms Lilian Chaterjee said Guyana did not have the labor force needed for the coming ‘explosive’ oil-related growth. US Ambassador Ms Sarah-Ann Lynch, speaking at the Oil and Gas Summit, said Guyana must move quickly to show the world and Guyanese that it is ready for the tremendous transformation ahead . The words conveyed urgency.
Guyana does not have the tools to devise and implement workforce policies for itself or the private sector that would ensure a structured import of skilled and unskilled labor and expertise for the country’s needs. It is anyone’s guess whether he will seek, or develop the capacity, to do so in the near future, or at any other time.
In the near future, as soon as spending increases in building construction and infrastructure, labor can deviate from rice, sugar mining and possibly other industries. These employers, who are mainly Guyanese, are not sufficiently qualified to seek such labor abroad. What will eventually happen, unless proper systems are put in place, is that the absence of rules and structures will encourage unregulated and illegal immigration, intense exploitation of foreign workers, theft of revenue, such as income tax and NIS, and profound social problems. multiplies. It must be noted that from now on local employers will need assistance to legally recruit overseas workers. There is time to address this issue, but the window is closing fast. Unless the Government makes urgent reforms now, it will not be able to avoid the social problems described above in the future.
Perhaps because of its sensitivity, the distinguished diplomats did not mention corruption they could not be aware of. Yesterday, it was reported that the Minister of Agriculture had referred two NDIA contracts to the Auditor General for investigation due to fluctuations involving tens of millions of dollars. This is daily news. But no senior government officials heard a word about plans to deal with corruption. What we hear about is the actual discovery of corruption. If there has been or has been so much corruption, is it not clear that dilapidated systems do not or do not exist to prevent pollution? Why are we not hearing of any action to prevent the same under this government? Are we to rely solely on the new purity of existing appointments – politicians or politically appointed bureaucrats – or those yet to be appointed? Or do we rely on enforceable systems, one is the ministerial code of conduct.
Customs corruption, which is also currently in the news, began in earnest in the 1970s with the installation of the licensing system for import and steam gain over the years. At the lowest levels, recipients of modest gifts from relatives abroad are exploited by keeping them all day to clear a package or barrel. At the highest levels, customs are in the grip of not only large importers, but oil smugglers and drug dealers. We are now learning its size with removing 1,000 or more images from containers. Millions of dollars must be taken in bribes per shipment. With 1,000 containers removed, imagine!
About two years ago, I represented a ship that came into Port Georgetown with a load of fuel, the sale that had crashed through it just before the ship arrived. The fuel was declared ‘stranger’ because the ship was only coming in for supplies to go back. Not knowing it would be illegal, the ship accepted an offer to sell a small amount of fuel made up to the customs knowledge and charged duty. With this success, the ship tried to sell some more. Because the ship was selling fuel, then trying to sell some more, rather than having to return with it across the ocean, and seeking uncertain sales elsewhere, tolls arose on the ship for a false declaration that the fuel was ‘alien’. ‘ The ship did not steal tolls and the evidence that she was selling fuel openly and paying duty, showed that she did not intend to do so. He proved his contract to sell the fuel and delinquency from the buyer. However, he was fined US $ 50,000.
I said the fine should be legally challenged. She paid the ship instead of being fought because, being in a foreign country, she felt scared that worse could happen if she challenged the authorities. I sympathized with that point of view. Shortly after, the MV Juliet was discovered with an undeclared load of fuel moored in the Demerara River. The undisclosed illegal fuel was not seized. Neither was the ship. No fine was reported. No human ingenuity can solve the issue of corruption in half-century-old practices, or in the many government departments where it exists, or in society, without dramatic and urgent reforms.
Given the experiences of other developing countries, oil production, no other matter is of equal importance or urgency.