I usually try not to comment on matters as stated in Ms. Sandra Khan’s letter published in the Kaieteur News on Saturday 8 September, 2018 and titled “ExxonMobil should be ashamed to post such forced servility on the youths of this nation”.
However, I decided to comment for three reasons: The use of Ms. Rebecca Low, Guyanese Squash player (Captain 2018 Junior Girls Team) as a part of ExxonMobil’s Public Relations campaign does not represent force servility on the young people of this nation as stated by Ms. Khan.
Secondly, this was one of the suggestions I made recently to the Head of Exxon Mobil’s Communications. As an experienced person in the field of Communications, I suggested that this is an approach that the company should implement in the process of becoming better integrated and gaining greater acceptance in the Guyanese society; and thirdly, there are lots of fears around ExxonMobil’s operations in Guyana but I am of the view that there is need for a more balanced approach from Guyanese.On my first point, a few weeks ago, I was attending one of ExxonMobil’s outreaches in the ‘City Mall’.
By the way, I would recommend that Guyanese go to the company’s outreaches and public activities; they should not only accept information published in the press, the press has its own biases.
I would also recommend that the company organize more discussion sessions with groups and members of the public.
There is a concept in psychology that says, what you don’t understand, you fear.
It’s like race- if we don’t understand the cultures and behaviours of people from other races, our response towards them could be motivated by fear.
So we have to get to understand ExxonMobil and generally what becoming an oil-producing country means and this is from both spectrums – the benefits and the burdens which it will bring to the country and its people.
Secondly, one of my suggestions to the current Head of Exxon Mobil’s Communications and another staff on the team was to identify young people who are leaders and involve them in the company’s Public Relations and Marketing activities.
There is a concept in Communications that is called ‘Appeal to Popularity’ or ‘Celebrity Advertising’; so I further suggested that these young people can become ‘Champions’ for the company.
Since I am usually very direct in my interactions, I further indicated that Guyanese want to see more of people who look like them on the company’s team. This was probably a little harsh but I am usually forthright on these matters. I am not sure whether they took my suggestions, but my point is that using this persons like young Ms. Low, is accepted best practice in Communications and Marketing.
I also wrote this letter because I do not want the parents of Ms. Low to stop her from using her talent and much earned respect in her sport because there are some criticisms around her involvement in ExxonMobil’s Public Relations.
My third point is relative to the fears around ExxonMobil’s present operations in Guyana. While much of this fear is justified based on other countries experiences with the company and what many call the resource curse which many oil-producing nations would have experienced; I do believe that as a people, there is need for more balance and objectivity in the way we view the company’s involvement in Guyana .
I support the public campaign which I don’t think is against ExxonMobil but rather, in my view, it is more about trying to ensure that ExxonMobil and the Government get it right. However, the public campaign needs to become more focused. What is it that we would like to achieve from the campaign? What are the specific issues around the company’?
And let’s address the issues separately. Let’s try to understand oil and the company better. What are the specific benefits for Guyana – the individual, institutions, communities, the society and what are the burdens?
What levels of preparation are needed at the individual, institutional (for e.g. private sector), community, and society?
What needs to be done at these levels between 2018 and 2020? What has to be done to transform the various facets of the society into a state of preparedness by 2020?
The answers to these questions must be communicated very clearly. The Guyanese people need to know and understand clearly, how oil could change their lives in a good way and negatively.
A few years ago, during the global financial meltdown, I saw a television interview with one of the United States wealthiest persons and he was asked whether it was known that the financial systems was going to ‘crash’ one day and his response was very interesting, he said yes, but not much could have been done to prevent it.
I assume that there were so many systems which were inter-connected that stopping it, could have been equally disastrous.
I do agree, though, that more mitigating measures could have been put in place. This is to some extent the same with oil and Guyana. Oil is here and everything that comes with it is on its way to Guyana with a force that cannot be stopped. It is coming with science, evidence-based, techniques, technology, systems, structures and more.
Guyana has too many settlers as citizens and in leadership; we need more prospectors and pioneers generally and in leadership.
What is coming with oil are a lot of prospectors and pioneers and our settler approach and values would not be able to compete.
In 2012, I started to promote Guyana as becoming the ‘Singapore of South America’ by 2032 but it seems as though this will happen before.
Some mitigating measures are the Government has to organize the country- my suggestion is that this be done around six economic and development areas -the Green Economy, Natural Resources Economy, Agriculture Economy, Blue Economy, Oil and Gas Economy and extremely important the Service Economy- not merely a service sector.
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