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By: William Walker

Suriname’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Albert Ramdin has cautioned that Caribbean Community members will need to accept Guyana and Suriname as the region’s future leaders or risk them looking elsewhere.

Speaking at a panel discussion on the first day of the Suriname Energy Oil and Gas Summit, Ramdin advised beforehand that his comments were about brainstorming rather than setting policy. However he said he had already heard gossip out of Washington that some Caricom countries were complaining of the extra attention Guyana and Suriname were getting from the US. He said the two countries with some 12B plus barrels of oil between them have strategic resources in “America’s backyard” that will inevitably attract the attention of superpowers as part of the geopolitical struggle. That is something the pair will have to deal with, as will Caricom leaders. And he advised that were they to see the pair drifting away and not recognise this “new paradigm… and play ball”, other players may well step in. “That is how the globe works…”

Ramdin who has spoken previously of a second OPEC in northern South America, said Brazil’s northeast could make up a logical partnership which would combine a population of 200M people with massive energy resources. And in that regard he said the three presidents are looking to meet before the end of the year.

At the same time Ramdin sees closer Guyana and Suriname cooperation as inevitable. He pointed out that Presidents Santokhi and Ali will meet next month for the third time since they were elected in mid-2020. Ramdin also envisaged that in the short term, Trinidad, Suriname and Guyana will form a triangle exchanging capacity, skills and resources but once the latter two bring up their capabilities and infrastructure, Trinidad will also need to find a new role.

Fellow panelist Devon Gardner, Programme Manager for Energy and Head of the Energy Unit at the Caribbean Community Secretariat, took a different approach. He suggested that Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname could provide the energy security in the form of natural gas and oil at reliable prices that would give the space for other countries including Jamaica and Barbados to develop renewables as part of the inevitable energy transition. He said in the past it has always been a third or external party that had provided energy security such as Mexico and Venezuela to Caricom. But Gardner said the rise of Suriname and Guyana could see a more symbiotic exchange of energies within the region. He said this could come through a modern political arrangement that would envisage energy as playing a larger role in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy than was previously the case.