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By Tash Doimen & Dr. Terrence Blackman

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Mon. July 17, 2023: The world’s newest major oil producer, Guyana, is a hot topic in D.C. today. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited the country in early July, marking only the second time America’s highest-ranking diplomat has done so.  It is a recognition of the extraordinary growth in Guyana’s global footprint over the past eight years since the first oil discoveries. Now the Guyanese Diaspora – the largest diaspora in the world by proportion—are eagerly getting involved in the rush of development in their home country.

A recent event titled “Navigating a Changing Guyana: Pathways to Prosperity in the Era of Oil and Gas,” held at The Gathering Spot in Washington, DC, brought together the Guyanese diaspora in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area with notable individuals from the public and private sectors. The symposium, organized by the Guyana Business Journal in collaboration with the Caribbean Policy Consortium, Manchester Trade Limited Inc., and the Institute for Caribbean Studies, provided a platform for engaging discussions on educational, environmental, and emerging business imperatives in Guyana.

President of Guyana Mohamed Irfaan Ali (L) talks with the French President Emmanuel Macron (R) during an European Union and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit in the Europa, the EU Council headquarter on July 17, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

During the symposium, representatives from ExxonMobil, which has led the Oil and Gas development in the country, shared an update on significant developments and progress so far, highlighting more than 30 discoveries and 11 billion barrels of oil equivalent found. The Diaspora Oil and Gas update was conducted by Mr. Kwesi Isles, Media Advisor, and Dr. Craig Kelly, Senior Director, International Government Relations at ExxonMobil, complementing two panel discussions that explored various facets of Guyana’s oil and gas sector.

Their session covered several aspects of Guyana’s oil and gas sector, including the history of the industry and the decades of unsuccessful exploration before the current finds, ExxonMobil’s current development projects and plans, and local content representation. The company also discussed its Gas to Shore project, which promises to reduce Guyana’s historically high energy costs and unreliable service.

The first panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Riyad Insanally, former Ambassador of Guyana to the United States, focused on educational and environmental considerations. Dr. Ivelaw Griffith, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, and Dr. Edward Greene, Chancellor of the University of Guyana, delved into strategic interventions, potential challenges, and the urgent need to transform the Guyanese labor force if Guyana is to capture and capitalize on these new opportunities adequately.

Dr. Ulric Trotz, former Deputy Director and Science Advisor of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre provided valuable insights into environmental stewardship and actions necessary for Guyana to maintain its ecological balance.

Drawing upon their professional expertise and experiences, each panellist offered distinct viewpoints. Dr. Griffith highlighted the three Ps – Programs, Partnerships, and Positioning—that he implemented as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana. Beyond mere renaming and rebranding, his efforts aimed to forge partnerships with relevant stakeholders and foster connections in the context of Guyana’s development.

Dr. Greene discussed pathways to Sustainable Development, emphasizing how the Sustainable Development Goals and shared values within the CARICOM movement can facilitate policy coordination and regional prosperity.

Dr. Trotz underscored regional environmental advocacy, particularly in the context of the Paris Agreement, and highlighted the relevance of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy in promoting transparency and inclusion. Guyana has long been a net-negative emitter of carbon. The current government has prioritized maintaining Guyana’s long track record of forest preservation despite its move into oil and gas production.

The second panel explored emerging business imperatives. Ms. Tamara Maxwell, Senior Vice President of the Office of Small Business at EXIM Bank United States, discussed the nexus between innovation and the economy. She introduced the audience to EXIM Bank’s role in connecting businesses and contracts, particularly considering the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the bank and the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

Ms. Oslene Carrington, founder of the Guyana Economic Development Trust and the Guyanese-based Economic Development Fund, highlighted the importance of innovation and investment for economic growth. She emphasized the Guyana Innovation Prize and the Economic Development Accelerator as avenues to drive innovation and foster entrepreneurship among the Guyanese Diaspora.

The panelists and guest speakers collectively offered thoughtful perspectives on Guyana’s oil wealth, emphasizing implications for present and future considerations. Whether through educational transformation, environmental stewardship, or innovation and investment, their insights aimed to bridge key developmental gaps and contribute to Guyana’s ongoing transformation and shared prosperity. The symposium served as a platform for engaging in dialogue. It highlighted the imperative of addressing educational, environmental, and business challenges as Guyana navigates its evolving landscape in the era of oil and gas. By embracing strategic interventions, fostering environmental stewardship, and promoting innovation and investment, Guyana can pave the way for a prosperous and sustainable future.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tash Van Doimen was born and raised in Georgetown, Guyana. She holds a master’s degree in development policy from the KDI School of Public Policy and Management with a double major in International and Sustainable Development. She used this opportunity to examine Guyana’s oil industry and the nexus between economic development and environmental implications. Ms. Van Doimen began her journalism career, covering hard news and featured articles. In 2015, the Theatre Guild awarded her for ‘Consistent Coverage of the Arts in the Media.’ The same year, Ms. Van Doimen began her career as a Foreign Service Officer, representing Guyana on multiple forums and speaking on various issues aligned with Guyana’s Foreign Policy.

Dr. Terrence Richard Blackman, associate professor of mathematics and a founding member of the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics at Medgar Evers College, is a member of the Guyanese diaspora. He is a former Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor at MIT and a Visitor to The School of Mathematics at The Institute for Advanced Study. Dr. Blackman has previously served as Chair of the Mathematics Department and Dean of the School of Science, Health, and Technology at Medgar Evers College, where he has worked for almost thirty years. He graduated from Queen’s College, Guyana, Brooklyn College, CUNY, and the City University of New York Graduate School. He is the Founder of the Guyana Business Journal & Magazine.

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