Linden business community wants development, investment opportunities in oil and gas

first_imgWith Guyana advancing as an oil and gas nation, the business community in Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) is hoping to cash in on various economic activities offered throughout the sector.Kevin DeJongeVictor FernandesA number of officials have raised concerns on the “limited” access to economic and investment opportunities, as well as the level of preparedness at the regional levels, relating to the development associated with oil and gas.Ever since the revelation of oil by ExxonMobil, Linden has been seeking out ways of becoming involved in the sector.Linden businessman Norvell Fredericks believes that for a country heading into such an era, a higher amount of preparedness is expected at every level.“With Guyana going into oil and gas in maybe 5 months or so, I would have expected that we would’ve had a much more excited atmosphere…but when you look around everything is so relaxed…setback, it leaves one to wonder if we Guyanese are really going to benefit in any way…For a country going into that vast wealth, as we’re hearing about, I would have expected to see maybe a lot more hotels than just Pegasus going up,” he related.Fredericks further noted that while there are promises of jobs, there is the question of equity for locals as it relates to getting involved in the oil and gas industry at higher tiers, rather than just providing products and services at a lower tier.The businessman, like many others in Linden, believes that the bauxite-mining community can be developed through the oil and gas sector if its skills and facilities are utilised.Fredericks pointed to the presently abandoned Linden airstrip which he noted is considered the second longest in the country, as well as its numerous wharves. With the community being strategically located, given its link to other regions, he shared his hope for it to be considered a trans-shipment hub.“…Exxon could have probably been using that airstrip and our port facilities in Linden here, escaping all of the congestion of the city. Things can come in, offload here, trucked to the airstrip and then moved by helicopter or whatever means to their facilities. I don’t know if Linden has been considered anywhere within those transit links…(but) there’s no congestion in Linden in terms of moving goods from the wharf to that airstrip facility…I think Linden poses some great opportunities in the whole scenario”, the businessman reasoned.In return, he said businesses can benefit by providing transportation and other logistical services which can contribute to building Linden’s economy, also pointing to prospects for manufacturing.Businessman Kevin DeJonge also stated that the present atmosphere in Linden is not one which lends itself to proper development. He noted that there are prospects for agriculture and tourism as well as agro-processing and manufacturing.“I know a lot can come to Linden in terms of boosting the economy and I’m expecting more emphasis to be placed on Linden because Linden is strategically located. It is the only town, of the 10 administrative regions, where you can get access to at least 7 of them. So more opportunities should be created. We have a main river running through our town so what we’re expecting is that all our resources are properly utilised to benefit our people. With that said, however, what I’m afraid of is that we have not been properly preparing for this oil and gas and for what is to come”, DeJonge related.He said apart from a few Health and Safety training sessions and workshops, there hasn’t been much awareness nor preparedness campaigns. As such, DeJonge made calls for more oil and gas education beginning at the school level and for students to be properly directed into avenues related to the industry. He also called for more focus to be placed on youths, small businesses, and local producers. DeJonge said that in order for the community to develop, there is need for more private-public sector partnerships, along with meaningful conversations.He also highlighted the need for collaboration between local government bodies, cooperatives, stakeholders and the Linden Chamber of Industry, Commerce and Development (LCICD). Once this becomes a reality, he said more people would be attracted to Linden given the access to resources.Additionally, President of the LCICD Victor Fernandes noted that there is potential as the community possesses the skills.“I believe the opportunities for oil and gas are tremendous, in that, if prepared for correctly then there is a lot that can be derived, especially from a community like Linden. Why? Because Linden is a community that has lots of potential in terms of technical and vocational training. We’re blessed with a number of persons that would have passed through university and that are skilled and in many cases are underutilised”, he explained.Fernandes added that there is also room for industrial development in Linden and countless opportunities for investors. In this regard, he said a comprehensive plan is needed with support from all stakeholders on what is needed for the future of Linden.“With oil and gas and what it has to offer if we are not prepared, Linden could be just another community whereas all the wealth that comes from oil and gas operations in Guyana— the benefits— it could just pass us by if we’re not prepared to absorb it or to capitalise. It calls for some amount of preparation in terms of creating the environment for investors, so this is one of the things that is a challenge for us”, he said.Fernandes stated that it would take collaborative planning to achieve this. He said the Linden Chamber has always been a strong advocate for investment in the Region. Fernandes noted that there have been approaches from investors interested in medium and macro-investments and the Chamber has been trying to get the necessary attention from the relevant authorities responsible for creating an enabling environment.Fernandes said the hurdles include the slow application process and slow movements of various windows required for investment. He noted that with the development of the oil and gas sector, there will now be more revenue, hence, an increase in probabilities and activities.According to him, however, there must be an enabling environment. He said the town has potential which should be realised and materialised into plans and activities which would improve the way of life of its people. (Utamu Belle)last_img read more