By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
There should be nothing stopping qualified or skilled Guyanese individuals /companies from benefitting from the country’s oil industry, at all stages. Further, patriotism should not be taken away from those who are employed by oil companies.
A pay cheque from ExxonMobil or any other oil company should not preclude an individual from speaking in the media or at any public forum about things in the industry that need to be addressed to secure prosperity for the country.
That is the perspective shared by President of Transparency International Guyana Inc (TIGI), Dr. Troy Thomas.
However, even with that being said, Dr. Thomas wants full disclosures.
During an interview yesterday, Dr. Thomas said, “When it comes to the oil industry, we should know each major player involved and what they are doing whether Private Sector or Public Officials.”
Dr. Thomas said that he would like to see a website that registers each firm and individual playing a substantial role in the oil industry. He said that the website should register the roles of the listed companies and individuals.
“The oil Industry is too important for the future of Guyana for us to have anybody playing any game of any sort. We need to know everyone. But, being employed in the oil industry does not disqualify someone from making statements about the oil industry,” said Dr. Thomas.
He continued, “There is a little bit of a misconception out there. The fact that you are in the industry does not mean you have given up a right to push for improvement.”
Dr. Thomas said that if knowing the affiliations can help people to determine “where certain people are coming from, the fact that people are involved in the oil industry should not be used as a muzzle.”
Dr. Thomas recalled that there was a period when some were propagating that working with ExxonMobil or a company affiliated with ExxonMobil should mean that that person or company cannot offer criticism of the oil sector.
He said, “When Exxon published that list, people were saying that Christopher Ram is getting money from the oil industry so he should not talk. What they are condoning is that if you are getting money from somewhere you should shut your mouth and not say anything; that is wrong.
Yesterday, a letter writer using the pseudonym Baldeo Mathura, called on all private sector managers to declare their interest with ExxonMobil.
The letter writer said that recent comments by the former Petroleum Presidential Advisor, Dr. Jan Mangal, about the “stages of influence” that oil companies exert to make countries forfeit their wealth were awakening.
Dr. Mangal has said, “…they will influence the private sector by giving them some contracts. This has already happened in Guyana, judging by the words/ actions of the private sector, judging by how some prominent Guyanese have suddenly gone quiet or changed their tune.”
The letter writer said, “Guyanese are treated to an endless stream of comments from private sector officials that are portrayed as impartial positions.
But how can we be sure? The answer, I think, and more so to lend greater credibility to voices from the private sector, could lie in there being full disclosure.
Maybe it is time that there is a declaration by private sector Heads and Executives, in particular, about what contracts or agreements that they are engaged in with ExxonMobil. Maybe it is time that Guyanese are made aware of how these Heads and Executives of private sector groups are personally benefiting from the oil company.
Guyanese have also been treated to the trend where private sector groups bring in consultants for oil and gas forums; another attempt to lend credibility, in my view, to some of the positions taken.
But we have seen that some of the very consultants who were brought in were linked to the oil companies – as was the case with Rystad Energy and ExxonMobil. It was Dr. Mangal himself who pointed out that Rystad Energy was part of ExxonMobil’s lobbying machinery.
I agree with Dr. Mangal when he says, “The odds are stacked against Guyana, but Guyana can succeed.
“But such success, I think, can be realised if we start with greater transparency from, not only the politicians, but also from the private sector groups and their Heads and Executives.”
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