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Optimizing Local Content: From Definition to Delivery

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Increasingly, countries are looking for ways to realize the value of natural resources wealth as early in the project lifecycle as possible. At the forefront of this drive is the push for local content policies (LCP) aimed at linking natural resource projects to the deliberate utilization of local human and material resources and services in order to stimulate the development of indigenous capabilities and encourage local investment and participation.

This can result in higher employment, private sector growth through small and medium enterprises (SMEs), increased manufacturing activities due to demand for goods and services, increased export trade, and technology transfer. One important aspect of LCP is the extent to which the output of the natural resource sector generates further benefits to the economy beyond the direct contribution of its value-added, through its links to other sectors.

Many governments do not have clear policies to capture these benefits, or where policy and legal instruments exist, the provisions are inadequate to deliver results. Few spell out the mechanisms necessary to build the capacity of national private and public institutions. Governments need to establish the institutional capacity to help local companies meet industry, technological and safety standards necessary to compete in the Global gas market and history of LNG/LPG consumptionglobal market. Governments also must recognize industry commercial barriers that currently reduce the ability of local firms to compete. Laws and regulations should adequately address institutional, legal and skills requirements for effective implementation and monitoring. Governments must work in close collaboration with local and foreign private sector partners to ensure that policies are implemented in a way that benefits all parties.

This section addresses policy initiatives, stakeholder engagements and infrastructure required for encouraging and facilitating local participation. Training of local personnel, which is critical for the sustainable growth of the industry, is an essential component for local participation and is addressed separately in the chapter on training in the capacity building section.

Definition of Local Content

There are many possible definitions for Local Content (LC) and it is important for the host country to define local content requirements in a manner that will achieve policy goals, while still attracting investment. For example, local content can be defined as the percentage of a product whose added value originates within the country. A more general definition of local content is related to job creation through local procurement, which is the purchasing of goods and services from a local supplier.

It is particularly important to define “local” and “content”. The concept of “local” refers to the geographic footprint that the policy targets as defined by the country’s administrative structures, economic development goal(s) and legal parameters within which the policy will be implemented. It is essential to define these from the outset as they are useful points of reference for guiding policy formulation, establishing targets and predetermining desired economic benefits.

Options to define local include:

  • the region occupied by the community in the vicinity of the project;
  • the sovereign state;
  • a regional economic community (common markets) to which the country is a member.

The definition and intent of “content” may also vary, options include:

  • improving the economies of communities in the vicinity of natural resources projects;
  • boosting a country’s manufacturing sector;
  • developing national manpower;
  • creating R&D and technology centers of excellence;
  • boosting the financial sector;
  • improving cross-border trade;
  • strengthening common markets.

A concise definition of LC is the value created by industrial development through capacity building and promotion of local business to participate in industry operations plus capacity building of local resources for involvement in the industry’s companies.

There needs to be a harmonized, clear and transparent definition of local content through all relevant government ministries. There should also be clear and consistent roles and responsibilities for government entities in supporting local content initiatives, as well as those for the International trade of Liquefied Natural Gas in maritime industryinternational oil companies (IOCS), national oil companies (NOCS), and private companies, in order to successfully implement local content.

Developing an Effective Local Content Policy

In order to define local content policy to meet short and long-term objectives and manage stakeholder expectations, governments need to compare the capacity of the domestic market against the procurement needs of large companies that invest in the gas industry. The outcome of analyzing the local market will be the ability to define policy and long-term objectives based on reliable information to develop a long-term capacity-building plan in line with the identified needs. The intention is to ensure the consistency of quality, engineering and maintenance processes and provide better reliability and economies of scale. Understanding these requirements is essential for governments and the local private sector to set targets in terms of capacity building to achieve quality in line with international standards.

The following factors should be assessed and factored into the decision-making process to increase alignment between governments and investors and thereby improve policy effectiveness.

Key considerations are:

  • Estimating the number of jobs created and skills that should be developed.
  • Designing the structure of global procurement networks in the specific sector.
  • Identifying the potential capacity gap between the host countries relative to countries from which projects inputs are being sourced as the outcome will enable definition of a capacity building plan.
  • Planning for the advancement of local personnel in the investor companies with escalating levels of responsibility.
  • Understanding the capacity of local businesses.
  • Creating a plan that allows the project company to phase-in trained personnel to maintain the highest standards of production and distribution for the sector.

Analyzing the Domestic Market

Analysis of the domestic economy is intended to ascertain the ability of the country’s public and private institutions to respond to the opportunities and challenges that the policy creates and to facilitate interventions to bridge the capacity gap. For instance, a focus on employment of citizens provides the opportunity to develop relevant skills. Promoting local content should be balanced against the costs and time added to the project, noting that the long-run, building local skills will help build local support for the partnership by showing clearer economic benefit to the local community and will lower operating costs over time. The absence of local capacity identifies a need for policies that build relevant skills to promote employment. In the case of an identifiable skills deficit, governments and investors should work together to institute measures to address the deficit.

Policymakers should consider and assess the following:

  • What state institutions exist to develop and enforce policy and monitor performance?
  • Can existing private institutions meet the project’s demand and standards competitively?
  • What national firms exist to respond to project requirements for goods and services?
  • What are the main opportunities? In many cases, there are quick wins and opportunities that correspond to sectors where the capacity of local SMEs already meets the requirements of the industry.
  • What are the main constraints and capacity challenges?
  • What levels of resources are necessary to bridge the capacity gap?

This effort should result in a capacity gap analysis of local SMEs, and individual workers that will pave the way for a roadmap for training.

Implementation of Local content

Establishing a clear policy direction to guide appropriate legislative and institutional frameworks is key. The goal is to align the policy, legal and institutional frameworks with desired outcomes.

Water mining platform
Floating mining platform
Source: Pixabay.com

An important consideration in defining the policy and regulatory framework is to maintain attractiveness to foreign investors, given the large capital investments necessary to develop gas projects. A particular consideration is stability and predictability of the legal framework, sometimes more important than the requirements themselves.

Different options are available:

  • Prescriptive policies that are designed with explicit legal percentage targets for investors to comply with. This approach assumes the ability of state institutions to oversee the activities of investors and ensure compliance with the laws. It also assumes the capacity of governments to monitor project sponsors’ activities. Experience has proven that this route can sometimes be challenging and negatively impact the development of the sector if the goal is set too high at the outset and exceeds the local capacity at the time. Policies should be monitored and reviewed if goals are demonstrated to be too ambitious. Changes need to be made in close consultation with the local and foreign private sector partners.
  • Incentive-based policies that provide guidelines to sponsors of ways (and areas) in which to increase local content in accordance with legal requirements. Through incentive schemes, investors are encouraged but not compelled to increase local inputs to projects. The approach assumes that the incentives provide investors with sufficient motivation and that in return the State is adequately compensated through the resulting increase in domestic economic activity. The approach recognizes the competitive nature of resource projects. It acknowledges the potential for host countries to use the incentives as an additional vehicle to attract foreign firms to relocate in the country and encourages project sponsors to seek out local suppliers and service providers. Australia is often cited as a good example of this. Incentive-based policies can be more difficult to monitor and enforce to ensure that government goals are achieved.

An example of how local content can be deployed is indicated below in the case of Angola. This example is not intended to judge whether this level of local content was good or bad with respect to development of their LNG project.

  • Mandated percentage of nationals in a foreign company’s workforce.
  • List of goods and services reserved for nationally-owned vendors only (Exclusivity Regime).
  • List of goods and services requiring partnerships with foreign companies and local companies (Semi-Competitive Regime).
  • List of goods and services with no restrictions – these require heavy capital investment and/or specialized know-how (Competitive Regime).
  • Local Content integrated into contract award by operators implementing their own tender procedures.

Another example of local content would be the following provisions in Tanzania’s 2015 Petroleum Act.

  • A license holder, contractors and subcontractors shall give preference to goods which are produced or available in Tanzania and services which are rendered by Tanzanian citizens or local companies.
  • Where goods and services required by the contractor, subcontractor or license holder are not available in Tanzania, such goods and services shall be provided by a company which has entered into a joint venture with a local company.
  • The local company referred to in subsection shall own a share of at least twenty-five percent in the joint venture or as otherwise provided for in the regulations.
  • A license holder, contractor and subcontractor shall prepare and submit to the regulator a procurement plan for a duration of at least five years indicating among others, use of local services in insurance, financial, legal, accounts and health matters and goods produced in Tanzania.
  • A license holder, its contractors and subcontractors shall ensure that entities referred to in subsection notify the regulator on matters of:
    • quality, health, safety and environment standards required by license holder and contractor;
    • upcoming contracts as early as practicable;
    • compliance with the approved local content plans.
  • The local entities shall:
    • have capacity to add value to meet health, safety and environment standards of petroleum operations and gas activities carried out by license holder and contractor;
    • be approved in accordance with criteria prescribed in the regulations.
  • Within sixty days after the end of each calendar year, the license holder shall submit to the regulator a report of its achievements and its contractors and subcontractors’ achievement in utilizing Tanzanian goods and services during that calendar year.
  • The license holder shall submit to the regulator:
    • a report on the execution of a program under this section as prescribed in the regulations;
    • a detailed local supplier development program in accordance with approved local content plan.
  • For the purpose of this section “local company” means a company or subsidiary company incorporated under the Companies Act, which is one hundred percent owned by a Tanzanian citizen or a company that is in a joint venture partnership with a Tanzanian citizen or citizens whose participating share is not less than fifteen percent.

An equally important institutional consideration is the Government’s capacity to enforce and monitor these requirements. This requires an outreach capacity at the national level, sometimes in remote site locations, as well as regular consultations with local private sector and international investors specifically on the issue of local content. This is sometimes overlooked and doing so undermines the efficiency of the policy as well as the ability to test its effectiveness.

Read also: Fundamentals of Liquefied Natural Gas

At some stage, it may be necessary to pass a law to ensure that local content policy is properly documented and approved by the whole government and to ensure that it is more difficult to modify policy without consulting with required stakeholders. This law should be formulated in close consultation with stakeholders. When drafting the law it is important to again analyze the government and local private sector capacity to monitor and implement rules and regulations established or mandated by the law.

Stakeholder Engagement

The success of local content policies depends both on the leadership role of governments and the active participation and commitment of private sector project sponsors. There are several other constituents that are also essential for policy effectiveness.

In many ways, the success of any local content policy depends on the alignment of stakeholder views and expectations. On the other hand, success itself can be measured by a policy’s ability to meet stakeholder expectations. Therefore, the mapping of stakeholders’ concerns is essential at each stage because it ensures that their perspectives and potential contributions are taken on board.

Therefore, the government and also the project sponsors should engage (or consult) key stakeholders to ensure buy-in. In relation to government institutions, the engagement ensures role clarity, complementarity and reduces chances of institutional peer rivalry. In terms of capacity building, the consultations enable the government, investors, and industry associations to agree on areas of responsibility for bridging the market capacity gap and setting local supply targets. It also enables the parties to align national manufacturing (service) standards with international norms.

Some of the main stakeholders are:

  • local entrepreneurs;
  • implementation and regulatory arms of the government;
  • training institutions;
  • industry associations;
  • financiers;
  • development partners;
  • international trade organizations.

Managing expectations is important throughout the life cycle of the project. It is important to provide clear information to local populations before development is underway to allow them to understand the project and the impact on their community. These major projects can involve people from outside their community coming in, disrupting local customs, adding road traffic, and so on. It should be made clear what is envisioned and when and how the community will benefit from providing goods and services and sharing potential revenues, as determined by the national government. The communication method for managing expectations can be through newspapers, speeches, radio announcements, internet postings, pamphlets, or other media.

Ancillary Infrastructure Development

Large gas projects require infrastructure development. This infrastructure may include roads, bridges, ports, berths, temporary and/or permanent housing, schools, medical clinics, and so on, and will need to be provided by the project developer and/or by the national or local governments. In most instances, these infrastructure developments, such as access roads or port infrastructure, are both multi-user and multipurpose, which means they can be used by local entities for purposes other than servicing the gas project, and this can boost regional connectivity and trade. If the project developer pays for these items, then these contributions will be included in the local content calculations.

Chemical truck
Moored chemical tankers
Source: Pixabay.com

In addition, no matter who pays, the construction will employ local workers and involve opportunities for local goods and services to be utilized. Many of these facilities can be solely designed and constructed by local citizens, but some may require outside specialists to ensure technical quality specifications are included and met. In addition, early planning of infrastructure developments is recommended, especially in the case of multiple project developments. The objective is to rationalize infrastructure development through early planning, rationalize cost, and maximize the economic development outcome for the local private sector and communities.

The timing of planning, permitting, and construction of these facilities must be closely coordinated between the project developer and government entities, at all levels, to ensure that ancillary infrastructure projects do not delay the timely completion of critical path project components and negatively impact the project schedule and that critical path ancillary projects are completed in synch with the overall project schedule.

Managing Expectations

Emerging producers generally lack employment opportunities and the required numbers of skilled/qualified human resources with experience in the oil and gas industry. The small number of job openings and the lack of local residents with required skills in local communities where projects are being built can contribute to dissatisfaction and often to social conflicts.

Implementation of local content strategies can be a means that some governments, international oil companies, and stakeholders can use to increase employment opportunities for local people, as well as business linkages between oil companies and local SMEs, particularly those located where the project is developed.

Job opportunities can be offered to the communities over time through local content policies that will increase capacity through local recruitment, training, and purchasing of local goods and services.

It will interesting: The role of the government in ensuring the development of the gas sector, key factors and principles

Local content can contribute to the fulfillment of expectations that the exploration of oil and gas will help to improve the lives of local communities. Local content policies can also be seen as an important instrument to the oil and gas industry’s operational sustainability by helping industry earn the social license to operate within the community.

Other options to manage expectations are:

  • Engagement with local communities early in the project development stage in order to assess and publicize employment and businesses opportunities available for local communities.
  • Development of a transparent communication plan highlighting the expected timeline of all these opportunities, including information regarding the collection of revenues and creation of job opportunities.
  • Investments from the government side in the provision of poverty reduction, public good, education, literacy, and healthcare which will contribute to the improvement of human capital in the long term.

Comparing Local Content Policies

Maturity of E&P in CountryMature E&P Industry×××
Frontier E&P Region××
Recruitment and Training of Nationals in WorkforceMaximize Nationals – no targets×
Targets for Nationals×××
Targets for Different Positions××
Positions Restricted to Nationals××
Sourcing of Local Goods and ServicesPreference Local Goods and Services only if Competitive×
Margin of Domestic Preference××××
Guideline Targets for Procurement of Local Goods and Services
Mandated Targets for Procurement of Local Goods and Services×××
ICV Leveraged during Tendering Process××
Development of Domestic Supply ChainsRequirement to Develop Domestic Suppliers×××
Incentivizes to Develop Domestic Suppliers×
Author photo - Olga Nesvetailova
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