Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram, believes that Minister of State Joseph Harmon’s petition for ExxonMobil to aid environmental projects constitutes disrespect to the nation.
During a meeting with top country executives from the Oil Company last week, Harmon lobbied for, among other things, Exxon’s assistance to clean up the city.
According to a release from the Ministry of the Presidency, the Minister of State was placed on record, saying that there are various other environmental projects in which he would welcome the support of the company.
“I have seen the work done with the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) through the company and I think that we need to continue to strengthen these processes and redouble our efforts.
“Personally, I believe that Georgetown can do with some help in terms of our physical environment, to the extent where we can bring Georgetown back and to a pristine state.
“We need to recapture the clean-up spirit and emphasize and encourage solid waste management and such things,” he said.
However, several persons, including Ram, have criticized Harmon over his comments.
“That‘s not the way a Sovereign State operates. We should not be begging Exxon for anything. It makes us look weak,” Ram told Kaieteur News.
“Why are we begging Exxon for anything when our country has petroleum resources in galore? I’ll tell you why. It’s because of those lopsided contracts that favour the oil
companies and not the people of this country.”
“So instead of asking for charity from Exxon, Minister Harmon should be petitioning the company for a renegotiation of those oil contracts. In fact, he should insist on it,” Ram stated.
He said that the State needs to demand that the contracts are changed for the oil companies to have a more meaningful Corporate Social Responsibility, (CSR) to Guyana.
Ram, who is also an attorney-at-law, noted that the nation has more pressing needs and with a better contract, as part of the CSR, the State could put demands on Exxon to fund the public infrastructure projects, such as the building of a new harbour bridge, and finance the national oil-related learning institutions and programmes .
However, Guyana’s Production Sharing Contract (PSC) with ExxonMobil leaves much to be desired.
It shows clearly that Guyana’s politicians accepted ‘low hanging fruits’ in exchange for the nation’s wealth.
According to the contract, “The Minister and the contractor shall establish a programme of a financial support for environmental and social projects to be funded by the contractor.
“The contractor shall directly fund the amount of (US$300,000) per year with any funded but unspent portion of this amount to be carried over into the ensuing calendar years of the Agreement.
“The Minister and contractor shall meet annually to agree which projects shall be funded in any year.”
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, had told this newspaper that ExxonMobil has agreed to look at four primary areas–land reformations, establishing green spaces, youth membership schemes, and a youth innovation fund.
The US$300,000 will go to these purposes.
But ExxonMobil has committed to more meaningful CSRs around the world.
In some countries, CSR is used as a road map to development.
In France, the government has strict CSR policies, which are aligned with international developmental goals. Companies are so guided as to where help in that nation is most needed.
In one case as part of its CSR efforts, ExxonMobil handed over to a US organization named the United Way, a cheque for over US$10M.
Yet Guyana has accepted US $300,000 to serve social efforts for an entire country.
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