Please excuse me if I am jaded by all the talk about our petroleum largesse and the good life it is supposed to deliver. I have seen what has happened to others who have oil, been hearing about our oil Eldorado for a long time, have a good appreciation of our political context and this government has imbued me with very little confidence that it has a sufficiently holistic understanding of the sector and its national and geopolitical context to maximize the promised good life for all of us.
Guyana has an estimated oil reserve of about 3 billion barrels. Our contentious neighbour Venezuela has 100 times that – 300 billion barrels, the largest oil reserves in the world – a substantial petroleum history and yet has its people scattered around the region struggling for existence! It matters not if you are for or against the existing Venezuelan government; there is little doubt that given its size and location its politics are wrong. It has been unable to sensibly link the wellbeing of its people with its ideological aspirations. Guyanese have had to face similar problems, which the mature Cheddi Jagan wisely confessed were due to ‘youthful exuberance.’ However, to this day our politics have not been fixed and if anything, appear poised to usher in another interval of political turmoil!
The second reason for my cynicism has to do with the lengthy gestation between my first excitement about the existence of oil, the promised good life and the political machination that may have caused it never to materialize. At an executive committee meeting of the PNC in about 1976, Forbes Burnham distributed some small bottles of Guyana oil, which, if I remember correctly, was found in the Takutu Basin in what is now Region 9. The discovery was reported worldwide and the substance was said to be so pure that you could almost ….