Some of the recommendations from the Tax Reform Committee could be considered for the 2018 Budget

A small but significant correction arises out of the article ‘Ram blasts bad spending by “big” gov’t’ (SN, October 13, 2017). I recall questioning a reported remark by Mr Winston Jordan, Minister of Finance, about no new taxes but expressed offence at his assertion on the taxes introduced by reference to a game of cards. In fact, this is what he said: “I’ve never introduced a new tax… they were all the same tax. All we were doing is playing cards … we were shuffling them around and so forth”. I took offence for two reasons. Taxation constitutes a deprivation of property, albeit a legitimate one, and no one, let alone the man in charge of taxation policy, should treat it with flippancy.

The second is that it suggests that the work of the Tax Reform Committee (TRC) had no useful purpose. The committee was made up of two accountants (Godfrey Statia, Christopher Ram) and two economists (Drs Maurice Odle and Thomas Singh) with outstanding support from two officials from the Ministry of Finance. Given the demanding deadline set by the Minister, the work was done mainly at weekends and resulted in a 133 page report of six sections and an Introduction and Executive Summary. Even by the narrowest of measures, there were ninety-six specific recommendations.

I am not aware that the Report has been released to the public but that references to the committee rather than the Report have been made in relation to VAT on water and electricity. When the committee sat and argued in the boardroom of Ram & McRae about taxation and poverty alleviation, income inequality, wealth disparity, egregious evasion and administrative corruption, we did so as professionals interested in providing the tax aspect of fiscal policy and public administration as tools for economic and social development. On water, I recall arguing that if I want to enjoy the luxury of a swimming pool then there is no reason why the water I use should be free of VAT, while many items of necessity used by lower income persons are taxed. Continue reading Some of the recommendations from the Tax Reform Committee could be considered for the 2018 Budget

Every Man, Woman and Child in Guyana Must Become Oil-Minded (Part 19)

Disposal of Production

Recall that under a production sharing contract, costs are deducted from the value of production to arrive at profit oil to be shared between the contractor and the Government of Guyana in the proportion set out in the contract: Article 11.6. The contractor is also permitted to use as much production as needed in the operations and within the transportation and terminal system.

If the reader thinks that the system is becoming complicated and therefore subject to dispute, it gets even trickier since there may also be some third party usage of the transportation terminal systems. Where there is such third party usage, the quantities so used or lost outside of the contract area is proportionate to the aggregate use of the that system and the value is excluded from any calculations under Article 11. Continue reading Every Man, Woman and Child in Guyana Must Become Oil-Minded (Part 19)

Every Man, Woman and Child in Guyana Must Become Oil-Minded (Part 18)

Trotman and Turbot

The good news

This column keeps meeting distractions from week to week. Column 17 last week indicated that Articles 12 Natural Gas and 13 Valuation of Crude Oil would be addressed later in this series. They will have to wait as we turn to two issues taking place this week, one the good news and the other the bad stuff. Let us start with the good news first. Yesterday October 5, ExxonMobil Corporation announced yet another oil discovery offshore Guyana. This means that since the May 2015 announcement of a huge find we have had four other finds. Liza, Payara, Snoek and Liza Deep, and now Turbot. The well was drilled to 18,445 feet (5,622 meters) in 5,912 feet (1,802 meters) of water on Sept. 29, 2017. The Turbot-1 well is located in the southeastern portion of the Stabroek Block, approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) to the southeast of the major Liza phase one project.

Guyana is blessed. All we can hope is that good and intelligent leadership and competent and careful management will ensure that we do not transform this blessing into a curse. Experience shows that nothing can be taken for granted, internationally or in Guyana. Continue reading Every Man, Woman and Child in Guyana Must Become Oil-Minded (Part 18)

What are the real curses?

Two statements reportedly made by President David Granger in a speech to an audience in New York while attending the United Nations General Assembly attracted my attention: one was an exhortation to members of the Guyanese diaspora to return home as the country needed brains, not barrels, and the other was a description of sugar, rice, bauxite, gold, diamonds and timber as the “curse of the six sisters”, perhaps a play on the Seven Sisters in oil.

Unfortunately, Mr Granger did not on that or any earlier occasion indicate the basis, logic and justification of the call for brains. Guyanese abroad respectfully attend presidential visits as a social event but have not been responding to President Granger’s several calls, in the absence of an industrial or investment policy, or a diaspora policy, or a crime policy. We not only need such policies but also a study to identify the skills set the President so much wants to attract.

In their adopted countries, the members of the Guyanese diaspora have worked hard to acquire their skills, operate in a functioning democracy (despite Trump), are employed in an organised and professional work environment, are reasonably well paid, are not subject to glaring discrimination, enjoy a decent standard of living and, very importantly, feel safe in the society in which they live. None of these can be taken for granted in Guyana. Continue reading What are the real curses?

Every Man, Woman and Child in Guyana Must Become Oil-Minded (Part 17)


Today’s column looks at what is called Cost Oil, both in the petroleum industry around the world and in the Petroleum Agreements signed by Guyana with contractors. Generally the term is used to mean the expenditure which the operator can charge against income in arriving at what is called profit oil. Cost oil falls under Article 11 of the Model Petroleum Agreement which carries the broader heading “Cost Recovery and Production Sharing”. A comparison of the Model Agreement and the 1999 Agreement signed by Janet Jagan with Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (Exxon) shows that the two are identical, give or take the capitalisation of a few letters!

Here are two of the opening paragraphs extracted from the Agreement.

“11.1 Subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, the Contractor shall bear and pay all contract costs incurred in carrying out petroleum operations and shall recover contract costs only from cost oil as herein provided.

“11.2 All recoverable contract costs incurred by the Contractor shall, subject to the terms and conditions of any agreement relating to Non-Associated gas made pursuant to Article 12, be recovered from the value, determined in accordance with Article 13, of a volume of crude oil (hereinafter referred to as “cost oil”) produced and sold from the contract area and limited in any month to an amount which equals [seventy-five percent (75%)] of the total production from the contract area for such month excluding any crude oil used in petroleum operations or which is lost. “Recoverable contract costs” means such costs as the Contractor is permitted to recover, as from the date they have been incurred, pursuant to the provisions of Annex C. Continue reading Every Man, Woman and Child in Guyana Must Become Oil-Minded (Part 17)