Jan 07, 2020 Letters
I am flabbergasted how casually most Guyanese are lured into the belief that oil is the elixir to all their troubles, and that magically Guyana is going to be transformed into a culture of abundance.
Except for a few scholars and jaded oil industry professionals, there seems to me a condition of national willful ignorance and guesswork as to our present predicament. The reason I am saddened, disappointed and disillusioned should be obvious.
Europe exploited us and we, the pejorative “natives”, bowed and submitted in obsequience.
Post-independence Guyana took control of bauxite and sugar, the backbone of the economy. Mismanagement, corruption and incompetence led to disarray and disappointments – many square pegs in round holes, and ‘jobs for the boys’.
Economic collapse, huge debts, and foreign exchange deficits placed the nation vulnerable to economic ransom – surrendering it to foreign ‘investors’, prominently Barama and Omai. Guyana gained nothing, because the companies declared no profit, according to their Hollywood accounting.
At the same time, they despoiled the pristine land irreparably, which continues to be desecrated to this day. The PNC did it and the PPP did nothing to make any positive difference. The PPP attempted a similar incursion with Beal, but that was thwarted and aborted.
Guyana has nurtured de facto authoritarian regimes with insular ethnic creeds, lacking national cohesiveness. It appears that the nation cannot function except under conditions where the urge to nepotism and patronage are the driving political and economic models. Added to that is the failure to grasp that the oil giants have left large swaths of desolation in their wake wherever they existed or exist. Only they and the elites of the societies with the resources ever benefited.
Carl Greenidge recently waxed whimsically about opinion writers/ads gang-up on Africa. They are right; but while they emphasized the rape of those societies by their elites and multinationals, they neglected to point out that these oil companies are also predators in their own countries.
Alaskans are not seeing great transformation, and Oklahoma which is the US’ fifth largest oil-producing state cannot pay its teachers, and is plagued with a meth epidemic. Also, there is the poisoning of the State’s ground water and the shifting of the earth from fracking leading to endless earthquakes.
No, Guyana will not likely benefit from oil. The companies are there not to help, but to exploit maximally. Lest we forget: “The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not its mineral rights.” – J. Paul Getty. Yet, there is orgiastic dalliance….
Guyanese are duped once again. The investor companies expertly sugarcoat and sponsor certain civic activities, and paradoxically provide some funding – all to sanitize and soften their image.
Frantz Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks) explained, “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalise, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
Cognitive Dissonance is almost palpable in Guyana. Guyana gobbles everything, ‘hook, line and sinker’. Those who hold the reins of power do not seek (or ignore) patriotic expert inputs. They succumb to the will of the ‘investors’ in all things unfavourable to Guyana’s interest.
They accept the con. They do not do basic research in historical dialectics. They ignore elemental facts, namely, in Africa, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere where oil wealth is secured in the pockets of Big Oil and a select few government officials and their cronies; and where inequality and extreme poverty spiral downwards.
They adopt risky and harebrained decision-making without due caution. It couldn’t be just complacency or laziness.
The entire oil deal is cocked-up – from pre-contract costs to payment and marketing of Guyana’s oil. The history of big oil tells its own story.
Now Mix and Match and Connect the Dots. The Mix disguises the big word “Corruption”. The story is replicated wherever Oil flows. These countries are ensnared and trapped in perpetual poverty despite their rich resources.
Oil is only one of the extractive natural raw materials. Think about diamonds, gold, cobalt, coal, iron, copper, and fracking. Oil has never been a blessing; it is more a curse and a disease for the weak and powerless.
I met a Nigerian man recently; we discussed Nigeria. I told him about my country and oil. His plea was, “Please tell them to be very careful. They will suck you. My country has had oil companies for many years, and we are still impoverished. Yes, you can see prosperity ostensibly, but not among the poor. Lots of corruption.” He laughed scornfully when I told him about ex-attorney general Adoke.
I am imploring… and would hope for total disbandment of oil in Guyana. Is it a fait accompli? No, it is possible, not from the power brokers, but from popular mass agitation.
The International Press is replete with information regarding fossil fuel and its ruination to the environment – regarding carbon emission, depletion of the ozone layer, and extreme climate change. Already the world is witnessing the effects of permafrost melting in the Arctic and deforestation in Brazil and Africa. The tipping point is approaching sooner than we think.
Guyana has many smart people, many un-wise and gullible. They obfuscate objective realities. They have done life-threatening disservice to the country. Is it incompetence? Laziness? Naiveté? Taking Orders? Follow-the-Leader? Fawning? Corruption? Take your pick.
Nonetheless, Guyanese are fed with the false notion of wealth – the recency, constancy and frequency methodology – a la Goebbels, not realising that there will be nothing to give or receive…. This is reprehensive failure. All on the gravy train must realise that no amount of money can buy “indulgences” – not anymore!
When the world is clamouring for clean energy, Guyana in its un-wisdom seeks to participate in projects inimical to Planet Earth. Who is Guyana following? America that never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement? Brazil with its current leader, decimating the lungs of the earth? Or Australia’s PM who belies climate change?
Political independence is not tantamount to economic independence, or intellectual independence, so it seems. My naive idealism is being shattered, yet my perspective and resolve are strong and steadfast, because of the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence; and I heed Martin Niemöller.
Guyana can do well without extractive fossil industries. Many caring and concerned countries opt for wind, hydro, and solar energy, these being clean and free. We can potentiate development with these in preference to Big Oil. I’ll leave this open and hope that good environmentally-friendly judgement triumphs.
If we don’t do things right and act responsibly to sustain an eco-friendly world, we may not be around to experience the result of our action, or inaction. Our children and grandchildren may inherit such neglect. Is such bequest the legacy you want to leave for them?
Dr. G Girdhari
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