The oil agreement is burying the hopes of Guyanese

Dear Editor,

The headline that caused me grave dismay was, ‘Exxon Contract ‒ Final –Harmon’, published in Stabroek News and dated February 23, 2018. On reading the headline, several thoughts overcame me: President Jagan would have absolutely rejected this contract; President Burnham would have never given away our birthright; Walter Rodney would never go against the people. I felt betrayed and furious; what arrogance, how bull-headed can we get; we are being treated like plantation workers.  Guyanese did not give any politician or party the right to dole out 6.6 million oil rich acres of their country, without sufficient compensation, therefore, whether the coalition administration assigned a Minister with plenipotentiary power to act on behalf of the cabinet, it still requires approval from the legislative branch, the budget process or some such similar mechanism. On what basis can Minister Harmon contend that the Exxon contract is final? Merely because Minister Trotman signed a Petroleum Agreement. It takes more than one stump to make a wicket.

The coalition party is caught running downhill, afraid to stop for fear of falling or admitting errors. The party led by its core leaders, continue running Guyana downhill, while giving off an odour of pretence that something beneficial to Guyana is being done.

I do understand that politicians are inherently spokespersons for the inner power core of the political parties; now the core is prostrating to Exxon, our new overlords. We the people must push, force, request and petition our political leaders to come out and speak with certitude and in an unfettered manner for the contract to be renegotiated. I suspect and daresay ExxonMobil has its subsidiaries, affiliates and associates, ensnared to varying degrees, in the apparatus of our political parties and the upper echelons of our private sector. It is the way of Exxon.

The member of a political party, with rare exceptions, adheres to paramountcy the of party,  thus, party members invariably toe the party line. The support is not necessarily based on what is best for Guyana and Guyanese; it is not important that in conforming to the party line, you support a poor agreement, gross unfairness, nefarious conduct, economic sabotage, covering up of  mismanagement and incompetence, or the breaking of promises or betraying the Guyanese people to satisfy and largely benefit the upper hierarchy of the political party.

Where was the power to contract out our resources for a farthing constituted? Surely not in our legislative branch. What of the dismissed and shackled sugar workers? What of the deplorable conditions in Linden? What of the impoverished bauxite workers? What of the old age pensioners who receive a US$100 per month? What of our public servants who are the lowest paid in the Caribbean? What of the poor state of our social services, such as health, water, education and security? What of the need for improved infrastructure? What of the extremely poor quality of life in the less travelled regions of Guyana? Were answers to the foregoing questions not considered, when we signed on the dotted line of the Petroleum Agreement. An agreement signed after it was known that the oil find of over 1.4 billion barrels had a crude oil value of over $13 trillion. Oil finds in Guyana have now more than doubled and using the February 23, 2018 oil price from WTI, with the Ranger Well oil find included, the total value of oil found in Guyana offshore is conservatively valued at over $52 trillion.

Could we not conduct ourselves as men and women of substance and negotiate for a fair share of our multigenerational fortune, and not act as servile hewers of wood and fetchers of water. Only we the people can free Guyana from the draconian agreement the behemoth called Exxon has signed with our ensnared leaders. We are now waiting on ourselves to act with courage, resilience, fortitude and perseverance to have this contract renegotiated.

We must address our minds and energies to rectify all oil contracts related to the 4,000,000,000 barrels and counting, of oil in Guyana’s offshore that’s located in areas with high porosity and high permeability, resulting in top quality and low-cost oil reserves. We must leverage Guyana’s oil to ensure monetization of the oil find, in a manner that Guyanese will have a fair economic share. Once we have the agreement renegotiated with Exxon, the other oil exploration companies will follow suit.

According to the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris in December of 2015 and the resulting Conference of the Parties’ pronouncement in February of 2016, of the 23 largest US oil and gas exploration and production companies Exxon holds almost a third of the total reserves of this group and around 41% of the combined market capitalization. The reserves of Exxon certainly now exceed 1/3 of the total reserves of the group, primarily because of the additional oil finds in Guyana during 2016, 2017 and 2018. Exxon is the giant anaconda; the virtual nation state that our government needs to ask for penitence.

The egregious pronouncement from our government does not end on the fake finality of the Exxon agreement; by some waffling of unimaginable arrogance, as detailed in Kaieteur News dated February 24, 2018, we have this headline ‘Worry about information overload leads government to phase transparency’.  The article includes the following statement from Minister Harmon, speaking on behalf of the government: “There must be a time framework. We cannot release everything at one time. I suppose in the fullness of time those documents will be released. It is a question of what is convenient because sometimes you release everything and you just flood people with information that you almost suffer from information overload.

“But I believe you can understand that these contracts as the President and the Minister of Natural Resources said, they will be released eventually.”

Phased release? Is the government saying that Guyanese are such dullards that we can’t analyze five to ten oil contracts concurrently? How disrespectful; what effrontery to string together senseless mazes of words in a naïve attempt to dupe the Guyanese people.

It is infinitely more logical to have all the oil and gas contracts made immediately available to the Guyanese people for the much-needed comprehensive comparative analysis. It will make our overture to Exxon for contract renegotiation that much more informed, practicable and achievable. Sense can only be made of this ridiculous phased release approach, if the intent is not to renegotiate the contract with Exxon.

Our politicians are intelligent people and this segwue to contract entrapment must be rejected. We have struggled too long; we Guyanese were seen and treated as the pariahs of the Caribbean, rejected at every port with or without our rice bags. Some gave up everything in Guyana to go and labour in North America, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean, and we have lost too many lives along the way to now reach the summit of our El Dorado that our founder leaders envisioned for us to just sign away a significant majority of our new found wealth. We must renegotiate the agreement/s that robs the Guyanese people, and in addition, place double locks on the mental chains that trap us.

With or without Esso finding oil in Guyana, we will always have Guyanese on the margins, who have relative power and wealth from both political parties, including private businessmen. The wealth from the oil find should be invested generously across our small population; amongst our youths, public servants, private sector workers and old age pensioners.

I ask any government official: What difference does it make, whether you have US$10 million or US$100 million? The virtue and purpose of living is not to make a few dollars more. Certainly, leaving a positive legacy to Guyanese is worth much, much more. Walter Rodney died almost 38 years ago, and every day his good works are referenced. It is not how long you live or the wealth you have acquired; what matters is how as a citizen and servant leader you have uplifted your people.

To all political parties and private sector leaders: President David Granger; Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, Private Sector Leader Eddie Boyer; this petroleum agreement is literally burying the hopes and aspirations of Guyanese and their children. Immediately seek renegotiation of the petroleum agreement to obtain a 10% royalty; remove the baseless US$460 million invoice from the contract with Esso & Company; immediately table all oil contracts and endeavour to make the contracts fair to Guyanese.

Yours faithfully,

Nigel Hinds

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