Sep 27, 2020 Editorial
When Guyanese open their daily newspapers, something becomes immediately noticeable. When they look at television, it is the same backward story…and it also features in local radio stations. Not a single Guyanese political figure of note is saying anything about obtaining more for our mineral wealth, with oil being at the top of the pile. There is political craftiness afoot with our national treasure, and it limps and smells.
Guyanese are presented with the careful language of the new government. It is as if its leaders are fearful of upsetting somebody. This extends from ExxonMobil to the powerful political friends of Guyana, who have all gone silent, being content with the result of their elections handiwork. There is skirting around issues, especially oil. As much as we try to shake it, there is the impression that our leaders are indebted for favours; thus, they must play along as part of the price paid. The result is the gentlest of touches for ExxonMobil on our oil, our deals, our costs and our prices paid.
Any price our leaders agree to pay is expensive and comes out of the pockets of Guyanese for a long time to come. This is infuriating and underlines the disastrous character and visions of our national leaders, whether of government or opposition. All of them that were so overflowing with powerful words, during elections, have gone silent. Like mythical figures from scripture and literature, today leaders have no tongues. It is fitting since what they share have no merit prompting reading, listening, or watching.
This oil of ours, which should prompt leadership voices to resound from the rooftops, is generating only this mysterious tiptoeing about, like thieves in the dark with a bag on their shoulders. What is going on here? Why are usually loud and sharp men, so uncharacteristically hedging, weighing, and guarding every word and syllable, as if it is going to cost them dearly for saying something untimely, and hence unacceptable?
As we focus on what the costs will be for hopeful Guyanese given the dangerous caution and alarming warning signs coming out of the pores of government leaders, something comes to mind, bears monitoring.
Citizens were recently greeted with a mini budget that was stocked full of goodies, and all in cash. It was most encouraging for ordinary citizens. But we must be cynical and question whether the suffering Guyanese public is not being fattened for the kill.
Specifically, much-needed cash was announced that means something to small people and struggling households. But is this to sweeten disengaged Guyanese, only to let them down hard later. In other words, distract and disable them with drinks today, and then join with others to raid their homes and rob them blind later. Time will be the judge, as to whether Guyanese citizens will be given more pennies, while ExxonMobil and its ABC &E colleagues and conspirators run away with our prospects.
The question that arises is whether these budgetary giveaways, this ‘free’ cash is the Guyanese equivalent of Roman bread and circuses. Give them something to keep them quiet. Prime the pump to give them a trickle more next year, while a stealthy ExxonMobil carries away the real cash cows. ExxonMobil gets the bank vault; Guyanese must content themselves with the kiddie’s piggy bank. Capitalism is a brutal practice, an even more brutal reality.
Perhaps, that is why there is so much talking about sugar, which has failed and hurt us terribly in its last draining years. Our political leaders look backward and go backward to the plantation, which is so sickly that its own weight kills it. Subsidizing comes through digging holes to fill the big hole sugar represents. Surely, we can and must do better! But this, too, keeps a host of people satisfied and happy, since for them, this is the sum of good times.
The Kaieteur network has taken the lead in emphasizing and reemphasizing, through countless presentations, the monumental importance of tapping into our mineral wealth to get the maximum from all of its varied sectors. But the thickness in the skulls of political players rebuffs all our efforts. They want the old and paralyzed. They want to focus on projects that give us pittances as returns. But they are good at talking about borrowing to facilitate pet pork barrel projects.
We like begging and borrowing, which is easier than rolling up sleeves and facing descendants of former masters with resolve and a comprehensive understanding of what we have below the sea and ground, in the trees, and in our seas. Our leaders shrink from saying: this is what we should get for the many areas of our national wealth.
We are contented with single-digit percentage royalties for our riches, and we are even more pleased to pay through the nose in double-digit interest charges for the loans from financial institutions all too willing to take advantage of Guyanese suckers.
Our leaders remind of credit card borrowers, who splurge with other people’s money, while considering themselves wise when they get by with making minimum monthly payments, and interest charges compound and spiral.
As Guyanese know, borrowing is easy, paying back is the dirty word.
Nevertheless, we will in the most measured language be clear as to where we stand. ExxonMobil is on the ropes, and Guyana has the company and its arrogant leaders in a corner. We must not let go on Payara, even though that looks done and delivered on the usual impoverishing terms.
Payara must mean (or should have been) the turning point in the ExxonMobil relationship. This is not about boss (ExxonMobil) and boy (Guyana) anymore. This must now be about a partnership of equals. If ExxonMobil wants to play hardball, we must be ready to play harder. We know the company is vulnerable, and we must be ruthless. ExxonMobil did not hesitate to be ruthless when we were helpless, and without a card in hand.
It squeezed the life out of us, with that abomination of a deal. Now the tables are turned. There is nowhere for it to go, and since it has gambled heavily on Guyana, Exxon must pay to be in the rich Guyana oil game.
No! We must not be bowing down before the ABC & E people because they were heavily instrumental in the resolution of our elections’ insanities, with outcome that favoured the existing government.
Our suffering people must not stay and be the same way. It must be the different way to a bright future that has ExxonMobil listening, responding, and working with us. The bottom line is this: ExxonMobil cannot afford to give up on Guyana, since its crown jewels are here.
Part of the continuum of that redline is that Guyana must come into its own and now, through pressuring ExxonMobil leaders. Yet on this, we sense consistent shriveling by our weak political leaders, new and old.
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