On July 6th, UK based security expert, Dr Perry Stanislas, addressed a symposium here in Guyana, examining the link between oil and corruption. His address was on point and I am certain would not have been what the hosts of the seminar, the Guyana Oil and Gas Association (GOGA) were expecting, since they and other leading members of the private sector, have not been critical of ExxonMobil but are rather busy inserting themselves into the equation to ensure that they grab any crumbs that might fall off the oil giant’s table.
Dr Stanislas alerted the audience to the very real dangers that lie ahead, as we enter into a deal with one of the world’s massive corporations. Since Guyana’s involvement with the rapacious corporation ExxonMobil, OVP has been warning the Guyanese people about the very same concerns that Dr Stanislas highlighted in his presentation, which was titled ‘Superior power/resources of global corporations versus weak government administrations: Concept of “state capture.”’
Dr Stanislas explained that “one of the reasons why global oil companies are successful is that they generate revenue like no other, and can therefore buy the best experts on the planet.” He added that many former members of the British Security agency MI6 are employed by the oil corporations, and said that these people make sure they know everything: “the good guys, the bad guys, who is sleeping with whom, who is corrupt and who is potentially corrupt. So when [an oil company]… needs a friend who is favourable to its interest, they already know who that person is…they know who to invite for a drink and to whisper in their ear…there is no dirty trick in the planet those guys do not know. Then they come to the Caribean to deal with you; it is like men versus boys”.
Dr Stanislas described the captive state as a state where “a corporation is so influential that it is basically running your country”.
The concept of the captive state was best elucidated in George Monbiot’s 2001 book, Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain. In fact, the notion of the captive state applies to all so-called liberal democracies, where the neo-liberal model has been imposed, since the policies of these states are dictated and shaped by those who control capital and the economy, in other words, the dictatorship of big business. The world’s largest oil corporations have provided us with the worst and most ruthless examples of state capture, because, as Dr Stanislas said, to the oil barons, “life is cheap”. Let me cite the examples of Iraq, Libya and Venezuela, where major oil companies have worked in collusion with the security forces of their respective countries, to vehemently oppose the attempts of these nation states to assert their right to true independence and their refusal to have their resources looted in the name of that misnomer, the so-called free-market. Be warned: there is nothing free about it.
In both Iraq and Libya, we witnessed the horrendous measures taken in order to control oil resources and economies. Not only were the leaders of these countries executed, but millions of innocent people were killed.
The only countries that have not found themselves in this situation with the oil corporations are those that have allowed themselves to be captured. Countries like Nigeria, where, despite huge oil wealth, the masses of people continue to live in poverty. Likewise, the majority of Venezuelans, prior to the Bolivarian revolution, despite Venezuela being one of the largest oil producers in the world, lived in abject poverty. The reason why the US government, has declared war on Venezuela has nothing to do with democracy and human rights, it is simply because Venezuela refused to allow their oil wealth to be plundered.
The extent of ExxonMobil’s pillaging was exposed recently, when on October 5th, 2016, Chad’s High Court ordered the oil giant to pay a $74 billion fine after the company was found guilty of underpaying royalties owed to Chad. ExxonMobil, which has been drilling in Chad for the past 15 years, was also ordered by the court to pay $819 million in overdue royalties.
ExxonMobil’s spokesperson Todd Spitler predictably had this to say: “Contract sanctity and respect for the rule of law are core principles used to manage our business over the long term and it is vital for all parties to honour the terms of a contract and abide by applicable law in order to achieve the desired long-term benefits envisioned when projects begin.” However, he was quick to add: “We disagree with the Chadian court’s ruling and are evaluating next steps,”
Fact is, according to international legal experts, Chad will never collect this fine or the unpaid royalties, because as Dr Stanislas pointed out, the superior power and resources of global corporations are no match for weak government administrations.
Despite calls for the release of the full contract between the Government of Guyana and ExxonMobil, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman has announced that the government is of the view “that full disclosure would not be to the best of the national benefit or national interest”. Although Minister Trotman claims that “ExxonMobil and its partners will share 50 percent between themselves and Guyana will get 50 percent,” rumours abound that Guyana is to receive far less than 50% and that ExxonMobil will pay no taxes. If we are really entering into a 50/50 deal, then why not release the contract for public scrutiny?
If the rumours are correct and the contract is not as Mr Trotman says, then Forbes Burnham surely had it right – better we leave it in the ground than invite these corporate predators to plunder our resources, bringing with them a whole new dimension of corruption, confusion and captivity, and absolutely no economic benefits for the majority of Guyanese.
We, the people, better wake up before it’s too late. We already suffered OMAI’s theft of our gold, we must not allow a repeat of the same lost opportunity with our oil.
Gerald A Perreira
Organization for the Victory of the People