Government has no current plans to revisit the production sharing agreement signed with ExxonMobil in 2016 as it remains adamant that it got the best deal in the circumstances, Min-ister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman says.
“I am not at present advised that government has any intention of revisiting that agreement,” Trotman said yesterday when asked if government was going to revise the contract.
“As I have said, when we weighed… what we were getting as against what we are not getting, we decided—as I have said before—that this was what we are going to content ourselves with,” he added.
Trotman said that as ExxonMobil demonstrated to the world its faith in investing in Guyana, the country would reciprocate with its allegiance and public gratitude.
“Our resources have remained under threat for several decades. Other companies had shied away from developing offshore. Given that at the time oil was trading at US$30 per barrel and we needed a multinational company that had strong credentials; given the fact that we had a company that was keen on going to production, we felt that when everything was weighed in the balance and the value and volume of the find, that this was a partner with whom we can develop a long-term, stable relationship with and we were prepared to give concessions,” he stated.
He said other companies following would not be given equivalent concessions since it is established that there is oil here.
“That company would act as an anchor and beacon to bring others in our waters, who would now be willing and it [is] then we can apply different terms. We needed one company to say to us and to the world, ‘We were prepared to partner with Guyana’ and for that Guyana is prepared to make concessions for that company,” he stressed.
“I am reminded again about the words told to me [by] the petroleum directorate in Norway. They said, ‘You should be lucky you have Exxon to deal with because there are a lot of other terrible companies out there.’ They felt that this was a good company and good terms to start this industry on,” he added.
Trotman said that benefits of a decision to partner with ExxonMobil have already started bearing fruit as the investment, subsequent drilling and oil finds here have attracted other large petroleum companies.
“Total, the French ‘major’ Total, has shown an interest in entering our waters. Chevron is interested… Petrobras… so we are moving from drilling to having an oil and gas industry that will be here for 35 to 50 years,” he observed.
Nonetheless, Trotman explained that his government was not just hearing criticisms but would listen and take sound recommendations and advice.
It is for this reason, he said, that the Petroleum Commission Bill will see changes recommended by stakeholders who are representative of the citizenry as well as advice on best practices by regional and international experts.
These changes, he explained, include reduced ministerial powers, and more representation of civil society and the opposition.
“There is no desire of government to hold or to hog the resources and so anything that makes it a national asset and to make it treated as such, we are prepared to entertain,” Trotman posited.
He pointed out that the Inter-American Develop-ment Bank (IDB), International Monetary Fund and the Common-wealth had helped with the drafting of the proposed legislation and stakeholders consulted had asked for a revisiting of the bill. As a result, when it came up in parliament last year, government agreed that it would be sent to a special select committee and it was.
Trotman added that he believes that Cabinet will agree to the amendments proposed and it will go through the necessary processes before being brought to the House again. “I anticipate that Cabinet will say yes and I can then work out a process with the Clerk of the National Assembly how to either withdraw what is with parliament or to add amendments…,” he said.
Trotman also wanted to make clear that he personally has no intention of micromanaging the industry as it is a known that he will not be minister for eternity. “I cannot be minister forever because when I am gone another Rasta will take my place,” he stated.
Adding to measures to ensure that monies earned from the sector are saved and used for the people of Guyana, Trotman announced that a draft for the much-anticipated Sovereign Wealth Fund bill, which will be titled the Natural Resources Fund Bill, has been completed and will soon go to Cabinet for perusal and determination.
He said that government was working tirelessly to formulate ways that the sector can bring in revenues and was also still mulling the establishment of a national oil company.
However, he assured that if such a decision is taken it would be for the nation’s long-term interest, coupled with the fact that the APNU+AFC government is working away from dependency on fossil fuels to having a “Green State” by 2025.
He assured that his government has plans to ensure an oil and gas sector where every Guyanese benefits from the revenues earned and he explained that plans were on stream which would see every region included.