June 7, 2011 | By | Filed Under Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom 

When you are desperate, the options are often very limited. Guyana is a poor nation and because of the predicament in which it found itself two decades ago, was forced to negotiate from a position of weakness with the international community.

On some issues, Guyana has very little say and has to accept what is on the table. This was clearly the case after Guyana engaged in grandstanding in refusing to initially sign the Economic Partnership Agreement. After the European Union threatened to impose tariffs on some exports, Guyana quickly placed pen on paper but saved face by arguing that it has wrested some right to a review of the agreement.

Guyana’s position was one of weakness, and since everyone else from the Caribbean was signing, Guyana was left with no alternative. No so with the agreement signed with Norway. From the conditions that are being applied on the disbursement of these funds, it can be presumed that Norway feels that it is doing Guyana a favour.

Norway is not giving away money to Guyana. Norway has found a way to meet its emission reduction targets by purchasing credits from Guyana. No matter how much fancy language is used to explain the arrangement this is essentially what the agreement is about. Norway is essentially paying us for not cutting down the forests.

Norway will use this project to demonstrate that this is one of the ways in which it is contributing to the overall net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Norway is under an obligation to reduce emissions and it is meeting those obligations by paying Guyana for carbon credits. So this is fair trade, no favours from Norway.

Guyana is the one providing the favour. The Guyana Government ought to have disentangled itself from that strong environmental lobby that has pushed it into the Low Carbon Development Strategy and realized that favour that it was doing to Norway rather than the other way around.

There is no need for Norway to be setting any conditions as to how the money is going to be used, for what purposes it is going to be used and how it is to be accounted for. That is totally unacceptable.

Norway is not doing Guyana a favour. Guyana is the one doing the favour because it is allowing Norway to demonstrate that despite its record of emissions, that it is committed to an overall reduction in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. What it cannot reduce through cutting pollution in its own country, it will do by reducing the rate of deforestation.

Guyana therefore ought never to have signed such a complicated agreement with Norway. This was a straight-forward deal, no different from selling sugar or rice to Europe. Guyana is selling something and Norway is buying. How come, then, that the buyer is setting all these terms?

One can understand, obviously, that the sale is dependent on Guyana not exceeding certain limits to its deforestation activities. There can be little criticism in ensuring that Guyana does not exceed the agreed to rate of deforestation. But that is where it should begin and end. There should have been no other conditions attached, and if Norway persists in insisting on any additional requirement, it should be advised to take its money and forget about the deal.

Guyana does not need to be stooping to the Norwegians for the ten billion dollars or so they are providing each year. While Guyana can do with that money, Guyana does not need to be disrespected.

As we have seen, Guyana can make deals that would allow just as much. Imagine a mine that was exhausted by Omai has been sold for a few billion dollars. No doubt the company that has bought the worked-out mine since it feels that there is money to be made there. It may have some new technology to extract whatever gold remains there. It would not have paid that sum for the mine had it not been confident of two things: that it can retrieve gold from the site in significant quantities, and secondly, that the price of gold will be sustained in the near future.

With such a prediction, it means Guyana can make a great deal of money by simply allowing Guyanese to work our goldfields. In fact, instead of having a Canadian company buy the rights to Omai, it should have been sold to a Guyanese consortium. This is the sort of deal that the Guyana government has to look at.

Why give the site to foreigners before making an offer to Guyanese. Is it that the government feels that Guyanese do not have the capital for such investments? It should think again and read the offer made by a Guyanese to CL Financial in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Guyana government has to stop believing that the Norwegians are doing us a favour. They need us as much as we need their money but from the way we are stooping to their demands, it seems as if the government is unaware that it does not need to grovel when dealing with foreign entities.

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