We need to renegotiate the oil contract

Dear Editor,

Contrary to much of the callous and unfair criticism that the current government has received I have measured their ‘works’ against their critics and I am confident that this regime will deliver a return to a sense of law and a better feeling about being Guyanese. Their infrastructural works are testimony to it, and they are doing this outside of a booming economy that defy all in comparison to what went before in respect to principles and fair play. They are not resorting to permitting the chaos of the troubled Jagdeo era to revisit us, though its violence and drug abuse continue to haunt us. But these are humans, in some cases flawed and out of sync, in a six-party coalition, our first functional national front government.

I don’t expect perfection and an absence of hiccups, which brings me to the little observations I had made on oil and Exxon until the incident with the bonus came up. That generated so much criticism, it caused me to go back to all those articles Christopher Ram had written on sensitizing on oil.   My surprise with the bonus was that all these professional thinkers ‒ Goolsaran, Ramkarran, and even Christopher Ram ‒ were indicating that this was an illegal act, and I was astonished. I have done small contracts with publishers ‒ Caricom, Unicef, Cida, WI Cricket Board and local entities ‒ over the past twenty-one years, and there have in most cases been at signings, a non-refundable bonus, advance or grant, and in a few cases these were outside of the agreed cost ‒ you call it what you want. How could these learned men not understand that there was nothing wrong with the bonus, much less the unexposed citizen? What was wrong with the Exxon bonus, as I mentioned in my GNNL column in Dec 2017, was the amount, Nigel Hughes and Tarron Khemraj are the only two I have read who agreed with this (I could have missed others) and who insisted that the bonus should have been much higher, I say about US$300M.  We need the money, we are worth it.

Then the disturbing revelation of the IMF declaration that the ‘Oil agreement generous to Exxon -IMF team -loopholes for abuse seen’ Sunday Stabroek, December 24, 2017.  I realise that we are screwed. Now I’m paying full attention to ‘Oil’; ‘bruk’ too long not to. Based on our dismal legal performance with the ‘Demerara Gold’ trademark case some years ago and the list of violations by companies brought against this country over the past twenty years, that the complainants won, brings me to the position supported by some legal friends I’ve exchanged views with, that we have mostly criminal case lawyers accustomed to pitting their wits against hopeless barely trained police prosecutors and not against a seasoned team of international negotiators from an industry we know nothing of. Our Ministry of National Resources has no expertise to negotiate with Exxon; these guys have bettered older and stronger nations. We need help to re-negotiate the agreement, and we need it now. Get overseas friends with knowledge about oil, local geologists and sources who can ensure we receive a sustainable return for our oil resources or we will miss both the sunset and the new dawn, because we choose to dabble in the deep shadows of the night. That is too simplistic a fate; the President must micro-manage for this once. In this respect, this matter requires direct executive involvement.

Yours faithfully,

Barrington Braithwaite

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