Gov’t working with un-bribable diligence to bring the Liza-1 oil project to fruition

Dear Editor,

I refer to your editorial in yesterday’s newspaper entitled ‘Not bribable?’ and wish to make a few observations.

As it relates to your analysis of my comments at the Alliance For Change (AFC) press conference on August 17th, 2017 about our Ministers not being ‘bribable’, it should be noted that this was in direct response to a question from a reporter referencing a report from the Economist magazine of June 29th, 2017 entitled ‘Will oil corrupt a small Caribbean State?’

The reporter referred to the view expressed in the report that “oil corrupts weak governments and Guyana’s is not so strong” and then asked “Do you believe that there is some truth to this perception?” I believe my response was quite appropriate.

As is relates to the Ministerial visit to ExxonMobil’s Houston Headquarters, you may be aware that the company has provided regular Ministerial briefings on its activities so far. Generally a team of Executives from Houston would fly down to Guyana to conduct these briefings and whatever other business they may have.

On this occasion the briefing took place at the company’s headquarters in Houston and the Ministers travelled up instead. This was not the first such visit nor is it likely to be the last.

There are benefits to occasionally meeting at the company’s headquarters where there is access to human and technical resources which allow for a more thorough briefing than those held in Guyana.

Whether a team from Guyana travels up or a team from ExxonMobil travels down makes very little difference in the grand scheme of things since, as long as the company pays for this travel the costs will be added to the cost of the project to be recovered down-the-line anyway.

There is nothing mendicant about this as you hysterically suggest. The Government and by extension the people of Guyana will bear this cost eventually.

You ask “has this Government no shame?” Ministers and other public officials are constantly invited to all-expenses-paid conferences, workshops, meetings and other events. The costs are mostly picked up by foreign governments or global organizations or lending institutions many of which have an agenda of their own to promote and are willing to pay money to bring decision-makers together in pursuit of some agreement or accord or to simply add clout to some event.

By your standards this should also constitute mendicancy, and invite conditions for bribery and compromise of the country’s interests? However, I have not seen you criticize this practice and can only assume that your outrage is limited to contact between officials and private enterprise?

You clearly hold the view that traveling overseas constitutes some form of coveted largesse and this perhaps is fuelling your outrage. Travelling overseas for meetings though abhorrent to the provincial thinker, is still a necessity in today’s world.

It can certainly lend itself to abuse and indiscretion such as a Minister accepting a free trip from a private company to Las Vegas or Cancun or some other vacation spot that bears no relevance to his or her work. And, while this should be cause for concern, a team of Ministers visiting ExxonMobil should not.

I believe that generally the Guyanese people, myself included, would like to see the Liza-1 oil project come to fruition. We would like to embark on the successful extraction of the 450 million barrels of oil and we would like to see further developments take place. We’d like to see the Guyanese people become the beneficiaries of these developments.

This is the scenario that our Government is working towards. And we are doing so with an un-bribable diligence.

Yours faithfully,

Dominic Gaskin

Minister of Business

 

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