A LESSON FOR GUYANA

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Trinidad has become a captive state, its oil companies do what they
want and get away with it:- Local content Expert, Anthony Paul

By KIANA WILBURG

Despite their flashy prom­ises, oil companies in Trinidad and Tobago have not been fully committed to developing local industries. Not only have they ignored the requirement for the participa­tion of nationals, but they used several mechanisms to avoid the payment of billions of dol­lars in taxes. This was the bleak picture Trinidad and Tobago’s Energy Minister Franklin Khan painted to his countrymen and women at a forum that was said in March 2018.

But since then, things have only gone downhill, says Trinidadian Local Content Expert, Anthony Paul. During an interview on Kai­eteur Radio’s Programme called “Guyana’s Oil and You” Paul said that Trinidad’s Energy story is one that holds several lessons for Guy­ana……..lessons which Guyana should avoid at all cost.
According to Paul, Trinidad has become a captive state a place where the oil companies do as they please and get away with it in the absence of consequences for those who do not institute the law.
Paul said, “To tell you the truth, I am saddened by the state of Trinidad. In fact, the Spotlight on Energy conference was called to bring tax avoidance by oil com­panies under the microscope. The Prime Minister and Ministers of Energy and Finance found that the companies were not paying their fair share of taxes and they were finding mechanisms to avoid it.”
The Energy Advisor added that the government even brought in international consultants to prove its case of tax avoidance by the companies.
But the most important point for Paul is why Trinidad even found itself in that position to begin with. In this regard, the Chatham House Advisor highlighted that there is legislation as well as a mechanism in place to prevent tax avoidance by oil companies. He noted that there is a Special Com­mittee that is meant to oversee that tax collection, but it has not func­tioned for over 15 years. (Editor’s Note: This is normal for Trinidad & Tobago)
Even on the issue of local con­tent, which speaks to the use of indigenous goods, skills and ser­vices, Paul pointed out that there is a failure to implement robust policies and regulations.
Paul said, “The Minister (Frank­lin Khan) talks about local content (requirements not being adhered to by oil companies). But the truth is that we have strong local content regulations in place and if they were followed, we would have prevented that from happen­ing. But the Ministries of Finance and Energy have not been imple­menting the legislation.”
He added, “So even though you want to put policy and legislation in place, if the regulator isn’t ac­countable, and there is no conse­quence for inaction, then you are wasting time and the companies know that. I describe Trinidad as a captive state, the companies can do what they want and get away with it, because that was last year March. Things have only gone downhill since then.”
Considering the foregoing, Paul stressed that it is in Guyana’s in­terest to really examine the TT en­ergy story from all angles, specifi­cally as it relates to what was done right, what did not work and why.
Providing more words of wis­dom for Guyana, which is on the cusp of becoming a petro-state, Paul said it is essential for mecha­nisms to be put in place to ensure the process of decision making is transparent. He stressed that those making decisions must be held accountable while reiterating that there must be consequenc­es for noncompliance with best
practices.