Three years ago, this government campaigned on change, transparency, accountability and putting the interest of the people first, but since taking office, it has done exactly the opposite. Many in the Cabinet appear to be putting their interests ahead of those of the people and some have exhibited gross incompetence. Almost everything the government does is shrouded in secrecy. The twisted views of some Cabinet members are that the people exist to serve them and not the other way around.
With a Cabinet of 28 Ministers, including five lawyers, one would have thought that they would have signed an oil contract that would benefit Guyana, but they did not. The government has signed a lopsided oil contract that allowed ExxonMobil to plunder our natural resources and compensate us with crumbs. The ravaging of our oil resources by ExxonMobil will have a devastating effect on future generations. It is like stealing from future generations.
The government had every reason to hide the contract from the public for over a year before it was released. It is an offensive, insulting and shameful contract. The government has not heeded the advice from Kaieteur News, oil experts and several international organizations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Petroleum Industry on renegotiating the contract. Instead, almost every Minister has defended the contract and praised ExxonMobil for signing it. Some are so naïve that they have even told this publication and others who have criticized the contract that ExxonMobil is doing the nation a favour. Their behaviour is an ominous sign of gross incompetence by the government in terms of governance and in dealing with conglomerates like ExxonMobil.
Guyanese are at the mercy of ExxonMobil due to a weak government, which has been outsmarted by the U.S. oil giant. The people of Guyana need fearless leaders like Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) to renegotiate such a horrible oil contract. At the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Energy with Guyana a few days ago, the T&T Prime Minister, in the presence of President Granger and Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge, has unequivocally stated that while his government respects the sanctity of contracts, it does not subscribe to the idea that they are written in stone. Mr. Rowley explicitly stated that contracts that are improper and do not benefit both parties can and should be renegotiated.
Dr. Rowley words of wisdom and his astuteness could be seen as an affront to President Granger and his government for refusing to renegotiate the oil contract with ExxonMobil, which at first granted Guyana a one percent royalty and then two percent after a barrage of attacks. Not only was the government of Guyana criticized for accepting the paltry signing bonus of US$18 million and a two percent royalty, but also its refusal to hire qualified and experienced personnel to help in the negotiation. The nation is faced with an introverted, clumsy, and inexperienced government, which ought to know that in this modern era, the average royalty is between seven and ten percent.
The government has not done enough economically, socially, politically or businesslike to make the people feel proud of its performance. Instead of pressuring ExxonMobil to renegotiate the one-sided contract, a senior Minister in the government is begging the company for pittance to help clean-up the city. Such action is not only disrespectful to the citizens, but is also shows that the Minister and by extension the government have lost their marbles. This is a stark reminder of the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr. Bruce Golding accusing the PPP government of going around with a begging basket at every international forum. Instead of asking ExxonMobil for alms or handouts, the government should get tough with the oil giant and forced it to renegotiate a contract that would be more beneficial to Guyana.
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