Guyanese are so divided politically that they will fall for any story which helps to reduce the shame they face because of the actions of the political parties they support.
This is none the more glaring than the desperation of the supporters of the coalition government, who are trying to comfort themselves in the knowledge that the signing bonus was deposited into an account at the Bank of Guyana.
For these blind-sided supporters of APNU+AFC, this means that the ‘signing bonus’ was not intended to be used for corrupt purposes. They should think again.
The mere deposit of the ‘signing bonus’ into a government account does not mean that the proceeds in that account cannot be diverted for illicit purposes. It is a known fact that in one country, monies paid into a government account by an oil conglomerate found its way into the personal accounts of government officials. In other words, the mere use of a government account does not prevent the corrupt diversion of funds.
Sadly, the process of transparency and accountability were missing in relation to the’ signing bonus’.
The whole enterprise of agreeing to a ‘signing bonus’ and creating an account for it to be deposited were done secretively. The monies, we are told, were not accounted for as public revenues, prior to or after their deposit into the account. As such, they were and are not subject to parliamentary oversight.
There is nothing to have prevented the signatories to that government account diverting the monies for some illicit purposes. The fact that this has not happened is a relief, but had this happened, the public would have been no wiser, because they were not aware of the ‘signing bonus’ and the account in which it was held.
The supporters of APNU+AFC are not interested in ensuring transparency and accountability. They are interested in ensuring that the PPPC’s criticisms of the arrangement are deflected. The supporters of the coalition are practitioners of zero-sum politics.
An embarrassment for the government, no matter how justified, is a gain for the opposition. As such, these supporters will argue, as they have been doing, that there was nothing wrong with the secrecy over the ‘signing bonus’ and the manner in which it was kept out of the Consolidated Fund.
It is the nature of the society in which we live, which allows for politicians to make the most egregious of missteps and get away with it. No one so far from within the ranks of the APNU+AFC has come out and been critical of the way this matter was handled.
They will next toe the line that the secrecy of the signing bonus was justified given national security considerations. But what exactly are these national security considerations? What is Guyana really hiding? There is nothing that Guyana is doing in relation to Exxon which is not known to the Americans and the Venezuelans.
The Americans and the Venezuelans know everything that is taking place in Guyana. It is the Guyanese people who are being kept in the dark.
The Venezuelans know that oil has been discovered in Guyana. They know that Exxon Mobil was given a sweetheart deal by the APNU+AFC government. They know about the 2% royalties and 50% profits. The Venezuelans must be laughing their heads off at this. They know that Exxon has said that it intends to start production by 2020. The Venezuelans know this deadline will not be met.
So why was Guyana advised not to make the deal public? There is only one legitimate reason. It was a bad deal which is an embarrassment to the government.
A ‘signing bonus’ is means of forcing a commitment. The larger the ‘signing bonus’ the more certainty a country has that the company will not renege on what it says it will do.
The oil find in Guyana’s waters is a massive find. Guyana wants Exxon to commit to production. A large ‘signing bonus’ is a means of ensuring that Exxon does not back away from oil production by 2020. If the signing bonus is large, it makes it difficult for the company to delay production.
Brazil signed a US$700M signing bonus with Exxon. The company is not going to walk away and leave this money in Brazil. The ‘signing bonus’ will force Exxon to ratchet up its plans for production.
All Guyana got was US$18M. Perhaps that is all Guyana asked for. That is chicken feed for Exxon. It can walk away from that or take its own good time to decide when it will commence production.
But do not tell that to the supporters of the APNU+AFC. As far as they are concerned, the deal, though not necessarily a good one, must be defended at all costs. They will never question why Guyana’s negotiators went for the lowest common denominator.
By the way, who were the negotiators?
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