Stakeholder consensus urgently needed on oil and gas

Dear Editor,

Guyana’s petroleum sector will be one of the new, key drivers of Guyana’s changing economy. However, what is not clear to most Guyanese is, who will be the principal beneficiaries of the new productive sector.

Already certain sections of the media and some oil and gas skeptics have succeeded in convincing the populace into believing that they ought not to expect any improvement in their living standards with the flow of oil revenues.

And the APNU+AFC in partnership with ExxonMobil is doing a horrible job in convincing the populace otherwise.

Neither the government nor ExxonMobil has denied any of the reports published in the dailies about the negative role of ExxonMobil in the countries around the world where they may be pumping oil from those countries’ patrimony.

The APNU+AFC coalition administration appears to be helpless in the face of mounting criticism of its posture vis-a-vis that of ExxonMobil’s as regards transparency and accountability.

Ask any man or woman on the streets of Georgetown, the overwhelming majority would tell you how skeptical they are about ExxonMobil’s presence and intentions in Guyana.

“We ain’t gat nun fuh get” is what you are likely to hear.

This media-driven skepticism mixed with a high degree of cynicism does not augur well for the nation’s wellbeing.

Unless the editors of the newspapers are up to sensationalizing or being mischievous, something must be rotting in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. In any event, it would be unreasonable were the editors not given the benefit of the doubt.

Whether it is an overdose of uninformed negativity or downright fake news, the point is that neither the government nor ExxonMobil has offered any answers whatsoever. It is like talking to a brick wall you get absolutely no responses.

So dreadful is the situation that Guyanese have to learn from sources outside the country that for the third quarter of 2018 ExxonMobil and Chevron have reported over 1.59 percent and over 3.20 percent increases in profits respectively. This represents their biggest profits in 4 years and shows that declines in oil prices are not so scary after all.

Moreover, according to ‘Real News Network’, a not for profit news and documentary network based in Montreal, Canada, the Attorney General of the State of New York has filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil in connection with ‘a long standing fraudulent scheme to deceive investors by providing false and misleading assurances that it was effectively managing the economic risks posed by increasingly stringent policies and regulations it expected to be adopted to address climate change.’

Why such disclosures and many others were never made known to Guyanese by ExxonMobil is anyone’s guess.

Unless these and other matters of national interest are discussed openly and constructively in the context of a national dialogue aimed at formulating the modalities for conducting an Economic Survey and formulating a National Development Strategy our country will continue to ‘knock from pillar to post.’

Already, the nascent oil and gas sector has become mired in divisive politics. Issues such as the Sovereign Wealth Fund, Local Content and the Composition and TORs of the Petroleum Commission are just three cases to mention.

Unlike the sugar, rice and bauxite industries which were birthed in the colonial era, the oil and gas sector is not.

After 52 years of independence, the oil and gas sector should not be subjected to the birth pangs other key productive sectors experienced during the colonial era.

Were this to come to pass, we would have committed a grave injustice to the present and future generations to come

With every passing day, consensual politics in respect to the oil and gas sector is being undermined by the lack of transparency and the unwillingness by both government and ExxonMobil to be accountable.

The entire nation is deeply interested in transparency and accountability in any matter that they perceive will affect their daily bread.

What goes for one administration goes for the other.

Following local government elections all stakeholders should, in the national interest seek to find a pathway that would place the key and strategic oil and gas industry on a sound, consensual and nationalistic footing.

It is high time that an end be brought to the blame game and political footballing of the oil and gas industry.

Either we seek compromise or face disaster that could haunt us as a nation for years to come.

Yours faithfully,

Clement J. Rohee

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