The signed oil contract reveals how short a distance Guyana has travelled since independence in dictating its own sovereign course and removing itself from the excesses of colonialism. The signed contract between Guyana and ExxonMobil is a classic example of a new form of environmental colonialism and prescriptions of international funding/lending agencies that would impact future generations of Guyanese. Guyana has tried to avoid the aforesaid two nemeses with little success. Guyana is now trapped in the jaws of a multinational corporation with no secure way of getting out unless the contract is re-negotiated.
I commend the local groups on the ground for resisting and challenging the contract. What should be noted is that signed oil contracts can be inherently refractory documents under the best circumstances and management, but pressure towards them can yield unknown and unbelievable benefits. Do you remember the NIMBY (not in my backyard) movement against dirty firms in the US? We need in Guyana NIMFY (not in my front yard)?
What is missing in Guyana is the same energy and synergy towards politics, ethnic divisiveness, gender chauvinism and human rights among the various activists to now the new Leviathan of colonialism/imperialism/capitalism. We now need a common approach to a common injustice of how a powerful force is sucking the lifeblood of a weaker entity. We must now engage in a sustained struggle to whittle away the power of the oil giant in Guyana. At the minimum level, future generations will applaud and appreciate the efforts and challenges toward economic and social injustice. Maybe we need a protest at ExxonMobil’s headquarters in Guyana.
Perhaps without realizing it, the people on the Guyana side who agreed to sign the oil contract have plunged Guyana into what environmentalists call the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC). These people should not have been on that negotiating table with ExxonMobil since their knowledge of/ environmental and economic issues is limited. EKC stipulates that economic growth is consistent with long-term environmental quality but in the short term environmental mishaps like signing a weak contract and social costs are necessary prerequisites for long-term prosperity. There is an inverted U shaped relationship between income and the environment: as the economy develops (Guyana supposedly will receive US$1 million per day), so too the use of energy, materials and the acceleration of environmental degradation and capital flight. When Guyana reaches a per capita income level of over US$6,000 and more, problems so associated with oil will level off and decline.
The vibe I am receiving from the government’s selective declarations on oil revenues is that things might not all be dandy to start with but in the long term Guyana will be fine.