Applaud President Ali for Govt.’s decision to review Payara, putting Guyana’s interests first
President Ali’s decision to seek technical assistance to review the Payara project is most commendable, and is a good sign that our new government would listen to the voice of Guyanese stakeholders concerned and invested in making sure our oil wealth is to the benefit of Guyanese first. This change of heart is most welcome as it had been reported that Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat said, “We are hoping to resolve the Payara issue very soon…I would say by the ending of this month,” he said during a radio interview. Such a decision could pave the way for ExxonMobil to issue its Final Investment Decision (FID) on moving to the production-development stage. In an updated statement the Minister is reported as saying the Payara approval will not be rushed, that “we want maximum value for Guyana.”
It was also reported by another news outlet that Neil Chapman, Senior Vice-President of Exxon is in a hurry to move forward to “FID this project,” but that the 5-month delay in the conclusion of elections held since March 2 and installation of a new government had contributed to a delay in approval of the project (so the PNC’s rigging attempts were also hurting the nation economically and they did not care). “What we continue to stress to the government is that if the project does get delayed, it’s a loss of value to the country, and they understand that,” Chapman said.
While the oil interests may argue that delays will delay earnings, it is also true that oil giants use tactics like those salesmen who would pitch their product and tell you if you sign up right away, you get a discount and a good deal, which will not be available later. When sugar was king under the British Bookers company, Guyana was sometimes referred to as “Bookers Guyana.” We are not “Exxon Guyana.” We love Exxon and their investment in Guyana, but we want a happy marriage not domestic violence against Guyana. Exxon must understand the Guyanese people are not happy.
I would advise the new Government to not ever make the same mistakes of the defeated PNC government and rush into a contract that has not been disclosed, shared, and vetted in keeping with the President’s inauguration promise of “transparency and accountability.” In case the politicians have any doubt, they should know the masses of Guyana care about what the government is doing with oil. “The masses are not asses.” When you tell them at election time that the government sold us out and we lost $55 billion, and they would have to continue to live on $2US a day, they understand that. The Payara deal should wait until Parliament is convened and all the Opposition parties must also be involved in this decision making. The PPP promised to govern differently, promised to revisit the oil contracts, and anything less is simply unacceptable. If the PPP acts just like the PNC, the people will not forget that. They did not forget all the promises the PNC made to them. So, Mr. President we appreciate your wise decision to seek help and review the project. It may not be a bad idea to ask Global Witness to review the project too, and many in the diaspora stand ready to help. The Oil and Governance Network led by Mr. Darshnand Khusial and his group of Magnificent 17+ is one such resource (See: http://www.oggn.website).
Notwithstanding the “oil curse,” and “oil corruption,” usually associated with oil, we cannot continue to be a nation so rich in resources yet the majority of our people continue to live like paupers. While the business class and political elites are guaranteed to lounge in luxury and wallow in the good life regardless of whether the contract is good or bad, the working class remains the working poor and is still catching hell. Someone said if you are not outraged by what’s happening with the oil contracts, you are not paying attention.
Mr. Glenn Lall, a true patriot, and the Kaieteur News has been running ads and articles exposing how Guyana is being shafted in oil arrangements skewed against our country’s best interests. Advice was given by those who have been down the oil road before but the PNC did not listen. The PPP must not make this same mistake. The international group, Global Witness (GW), warned of an enormous loss of revenue in a February 3, 2020 report, titled “Signed Away: How Exxon’s Exploitative Deal Deprived Guyana of up to US$55 billion.” This is money that Guyanese people have said could be used to build much-needed roads, hospitals, schools, and sea defences to protect the 90% of the population at risk from rising sea levels, according to GW. Key findings were:
1. Guyana is set to lose out on up to US$55 billion from the Stabroek Block license – an average of US$1.3 billion per year in a country with an annual budget of US$1.4 billion, according to a new analysis.
2. To get its deal, Exxon employed aggressive and rushed negotiating tactics.
3. At the same time, Guyana’s negotiators were inexperienced, acted against expert advice, and underplayed Guyana’s strong bargaining position.
4. One official – Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman – even knew Exxon would soon announce the results of its new oil find, but rushed to sign Stabroek anyway, despite advice from experts to seek further information.
5. Guyana is set to make up eight percent of Exxon’s entire crude oil output through to 2056.
6. Global Witness calls on Guyanese officials to demand a new deal from Exxon.
Similar advice and sentiments were made by Chatham House, the IMF, the World Bank, Former Minister of Energy of Trinidad and Tobago Kevin Ramnarine and other oil experts who have gone down this road before – Dr. Jan Mangal, Melinda Janki, Christopher Ram, Anthony Paul, and disaporians such as Darshanand Khusial, Nicholas Ramsaywack and others who have been warning us that if we don’t’ amend the oil contracts, Guyanese will hold what the village people call “larwah” and “catahar.”
It cannot be right that Exxon and Hess and the big corporations should get the bulk of the oil profits and Guyana receives a pittance. For all our lives, it has been every Guyanese dream that one day Guyana will find oil, and we would all be rich. Today, Guyana is pumping oil, and we are still very destitute and the future looks bleak, if the new PPP government does not renegotiate oil contracts as it promised during the election campaign. We must all speak up now and hold them accountable to this promise. Please help them to understand not to break promises, the way the PNC did.
The government just got in so why rush and sign a contract that has not been disclosed, discussed and vetted. What exactly is in the contract that the PPP will sign by month end? Mr. President, if it was wrong for the PNC to sign a secret contract, it would not be OK for the PPP to do the same. So we are glad the government has decided to engage in more planning and review.
The Coalition politicians promised “the good life” premised on oil revenues flowing in to our economic coffers like a river. What we have instead is “trickle-down economics”. The ones reaping the hog of the benefits are Exxon and the related oil businesses, many of them foreign. The PNC’s mistake is that they rushed to have oil flowing during their reign. The oil giants obliged and moved up their starter date of production knowing they are in an advantageous position, because the Guyana government was ill prepared for first oil. We did not have the planning, training, environmental, accounting, auditing, accountability measures, and an oil infrastructure in place to monitor and police the process to make sure Guyana’s interests are protected and we are maximizing the returns from oil. In fact, a proper local content policy was not in place, and the one now is inadequate. A local content policy is what ensures that Guyanese people and companies will have a share of the oil action in which Guyanese are employed and Guyanese companies are getting contracts for related oil support services.
My fellow Guyanese, look at what is happening now with billions of cubic feet of gas being burnt out and lost forever for our country’s use and the government and our EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says there is very little they can do about it. How come we are not compensated for such loss and Exxon is not penalized with hefty fines? What nonsense is this? How long will we sit by and see our national patrimony destroyed right before our eyes? Please speak up and let our new government know we want the good life now and a better deal now. I know our government would listen and keep its promises.
Dr. Jerry Jailall