Last Updated on Monday, 13 February 2023, 23:00 by Denis Chabrol
Internationally renowned Professor of Economics, Jeffrey Sachs has decided to back out of the Guyana Energy Conference, shortly after he was billed as a keynote speaker at the four-day event that opens on Tuesday.
“Jeffrey has decided to no longer attend,” Conference spokesman, Alex Graham told a news briefing. “As far as we know, he had committed and later on in the discussion about his participation, he said he would no longer be able to attend and that’s as far as I know,” he said.
The announcement has since been quietly pulled from the Guyana Energy Conference website, and Professor Sachs’ decision to no longer attend the event was not announced.
Sachs’ absence only came to light when Demerara Waves Online News asked whether he was among those who had opted out of the conference.
Mr Graham said he was unaware of Professor Sachs’ reason to stay away from the event but conceded that it would be a blow to the event that would bring together oil and gas industry leaders. “If you have certain minds and actors in the global space on energy and the environment, you certainly want them at the table and if you don’t have some of those the you are disappointed,” he said.
Mr Graham declined to say whether he thought that the noted economist who has developed bold and effective strategies to combat climate change, had anything to do with the local environmental lobby. “I have no idea,” he said. Mr Graham also declined to say how strong was the energy lobby in Guyana as “it is outside of my expertise.”
Meanwhile, the Guyana Energy Conference organisers have come in for some flax for seeking to limit direct interaction between the media and delegates, saying that journalists must first request interviews through the organisers and await approval.
The media were also informed by Mr Graham that they would not be allowed inside the official opening session but would have to remain inside the media centre where there would be live feeds. He said in essence that the company that is hosting the event was keen on making as much money as possible and so packages were offered that would see exhibitors also securing seats at the opening.
However, the Guyana Press Association (GPA) on Monday night objected to the new rules for the media who are covering this year’s event.
“The Guyana Press Association bemoans the attempt by the organisers of the Guyana Energy Conference to constrain the media’s free access to delegates and other participants of the event scheduled for February 14 to 17, 2023.
For many of the delegates coming from free, open and democratic societies where press freedom and media access are norms, this quite possibly is a novel experience for them as conference organisers are holding themselves out as the “conduit” for arranging interviews,” the association added.
The GPA says it is urging organisers of the Guyana Energy Conference to conduct themselves in accordance with globally acceptable rules of engagement with the media rather than seeking to impose, enforce or introduce barriers.
“These are nothing else but attempts at State-driven control of the media and so foreign delegates should not be seen to be a party to conduct that smacks of some sort of press restriction.
The media, rather than the organisers of the Guyana Energy Conference, are the true and authentic conduits between decision-makers and the working class,” the GPA said.
More than 1,200 persons have signed up to attend the Guyana International Energy Conference and Expo, which opens at the Marriott Hotel on Tuesday.