I believe that the visit by the five ministers and other government officials to ExxonMobil in Texas was good in theory, but the way it was done causes one to wonder whether it is the beginning of the end for transparency and accountability in this country. My intention is not to point fingers at the ministers, not at all! However, there are a few questions which are relevant to this matter. Why wasn’t there any representative from the private sector or the many chambers of commerce present? This would have displayed balance to the taxpayers of this country. It is well known that on many occasions former president, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo took various experienced businessmen on state trips. I recall prominent businessman, Capt Gerry Gouveia being one of those persons. At times, he would even select religious leaders depending on the nature of the trip, and one can safely conclude that this was done mainly for specialization and inclusivity.
Moreover, why couldn’t they include a representative from the main opposition party? After all, the party represents 49.4 % of Guyana’s electorate, and Guyana’s oil wealth belongs to the entire country. This would have shown openness. At this juncture in Guyana, Guyanese should feel in control of their resources, and having widespread representation and discussion would dispel any form of accusation which may emanate from the populace.
I was surprised several years ago, when Dr Vinayak Joshi, former Indian High Commissioner to Guyana hosted a luncheon to welcome certain important visitors from India. The guests were the opposition Members of Parliament who were handling external affairs ‒ not the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Do we as Guyanese have that mental capacity to think and operate in such a fashion? Do we have the desire to create harmony and peace between our political parties?
Currently, many are in pain and confused; unsure about where we are going. This is the case with supporters of both sides of the House. Unfortunately, the opposition now has all the answers; however, when they were in government, the many problems we faced could not be solved. My wish is for our politicians to mature and grow to such a level that they utilize certain institutions and federations of peace in order to create a nexus between their two parties. As I observed the five ministers who were sent to Texas, I was completely flabbergasted, since they were all government personalities (not that I disrespect any). Having a specialized, balanced team would have taken away much doubt from the minds and hearts of Guyanese.
ExxonMobil is an outstanding and successful multinational cooperation which has helped numerous economies around the world. The company has provided meaningful employment to qualified and unqualified persons. Sadly, since it is a super giant it is targeted by certain corrupt public officials in the countries where it operates. My recommendation to ExxonMobil is to use Guyana as a springboard to eliminate the negative image that it has among poor nations; take the oil find in Guyana as an opportunity to get rid of the suspicion and fear that citizens may possess.
Because of ExxonMobil’s experience in the petroleum industry, its counsel on state resources and non-renewable energy could be rewarding, as many governments still pursue unsustainable growth. In Guyana we need to provide incentives for eco-friendly businesses, agriculture and cattle rearing. These are a few of the ways I see ExxonMobil creating a positive image for itself and our country on the world stage.
As a result of confusion in the mind of the average Guyanese who may not have the facts or information on oil, the government should play an active role by hosting workshops. I would call on this APNU+AFC coalition in cooperation with the chambers of commerce, the private sector, civil society and ExxonMobil, to meet the average Guyanese where they are: on street corners, in bottom houses, under trees, to meet the farmers in their areas while they work in the way they do when they want votes during elections. This would have a great public relations benefit for both the government and ExxonMobil corporation. This can be done not just for education but also for feedback and new perspectives. Recently in an African nation, according to the media, there was a huge scandal when it was discovered that a private bank account belonging to the head of state had allegedly received payment from a senior functionary of the corporation.
For the record, I am not accusing our President of any such act since I know he is an honourable man. However the entire government is not the Head of State. In certain fields of public office, it is possible that some may be lured into corrupt transactions.
I encourage the government to think towards the future so that harmony and unity become the pillars of our oil wealth. We know the case studies about oil and corruption; we have the research on the ‘oil curse’; and we have heard and seen where the mismanagement of resources leads a nation. Let us learn from these mistakes and write a new chapter that our future generations will be proud to read. I welcome ExxonMobil to Guyana; let the partnership grow for mutual benefit.
Roshan Khan Sr