What should the average person do to ensure the signed contract is renegotiated?

Dear Editor,

I am currently writing an article on ‘Is it the politics of oil or oil of politics in Guyana’ for a reputable journal. Let me also add that I have written about six articles on environmental issues and policies in Guyana. To give you an idea, this is what Janette Bulkan and John Palmer in the literature review of their article on gold mining in Guyana wrote about me: “The third category includes Lomarsh Roopnarine’s desk analyses of some environmental policies and practices, initiated and funded by international partners (Roopnarine, 2000, 2002, 2006). Roopnarine pays little attention to the webs of power in the gold mining industry that effectively nullify the environmental best practices that exist only on paper. His initial assessment was that ‘during the last ten years or so Guyana has made an impressive start in [policy formulation]’ (Roopnarine, 2000, p. 209). Two years later he was less sanguine, concluding that ‘Guyana’s environmental policy is laggard and ad hoc, lumbering on a continuum from uncertainty to dissension. Regulatory bodies are running years behind …’ (Roopnarine, 2002, p. 83)”.

I share the above because Janette Bulkan has appeared regularly in the letter section of SN writing on environmental issues. What surprises me, however, is her bold analyses of me when she has no idea what I did to write these articles but calls them “desk analyses”. If they are desk analyses, then why did she list and use them as unavoidable studies in her literature review? Strange things do happen in academia. Please continue using the articles. I share the above also because in my years of research on environmental policies in Guyana the name Raphael Trotman is a no-show. I am not surprised then that ExxonMobil has the current government wrapped around its fingers.

Bulkan’s analyses speak directly to the current exchange between Guyana and ExxonMobil as well as Guyanese critics on oil. The recent comment by one Professor that ExxonMobil will walk away if pressed is absolute rubbish. ExxonMobil will never walk away from any oil finds. The reverse is the reality. I would like to see the evidence where ExxonMobil has walked away from any oil deals with countries like Guyana in the developing world.

Some twenty years ago environmentalist Marcus Colchester in his book Guyana, Fragile Frontier: Loggers, Miners, and Forest Peoples (1999) argues impressively that developing countries like Guyana suffer from the theory of regulation. Instead of the governments in the developing countries controlling and regulating multinational corporations on their own soil, they are regulated by these corporations through signed contracts. In the Guyanese local parlance, the signed contract between the Guyana government and ExxonMobil is like putting the cart before the horse. The theory of regulation reveals a damning reality that has been going on in resource-rich developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean for decades. Governments in these regions invite multinational corporations or vice versa to exploit their natural resources with of the aim of generating badly needed revenues to promote growth and development. In so doing, these governments always seem to hand multinational corporations extraordinarily generous concessions, revealing promiscuous ecological behaviour. That is the selling of the nations’ natural resources with little quid pro quo.  Why this situation continues unabated cannot be reduced to the thought that multinational corporations are rich and powerful and developing countries are poor and powerless when contracts between them are negotiated. After all, developing countries can now hire international experts to advise them, and more importantly, learn from past experiences from other developing countries. Guyana can, for example, learn from what has occurred in Ghana with regard to that country’s signed contract agreement with ExxonMobil.

The recently signed contracts between the Guyana government and ExxonMobil reveals a textbook example of how desperate developing nations will rush to attain quick profits from foreign investment without seriously considering future implications. Equally unsettling is that the signed contract reveals how political parties will rely on multinational corporations to stay in power when they are losing legitimacy from their domestic support base. The question to ask is: What should the average person do to ensure that the signed contract is re-negotiated? This is a major challenge because the Guyanese public is not environmentally benign, especially in far-flung areas in Guyana or even on the coastal belt.  More grass roots mobilization is needed. One must, however, commend the critical views emanating from the dailies towards the signed oil contract. It seems to me that the government has made up its mind not to re-negotiate the contract, and therefore, I am wondering if the Guyanese public can take the Guyana government to court to prevent the pillaging of the environment for lopsided gains coupled with rapacious environmental behaviour. Sub-soil minerals belong to the people of Guyana not to any sitting government.

In closing, please allow me to share what I wrote some twenty years ago about environmental issues in Guyana. “The existing environmental regulations [2000] and problems may be maligned for failures with little consideration how the environment would have been had there not been environmental laws. It is important, then, to recognize that Guyana has come a long way in environmental matters, and it is in a unique position to learn from environmental mistakes made by other countries in the world.” Clearly, this government has learned very little but the principle and practice of environmental regulations, contracts included, remain?

Yours faithfully,

Lomarsh Roopnarine

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