Oct 03, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – This paper over the past month in particular has intensified our already strident campaign for transparency in the oil and gas sector, particular when it comes to revealing who are the persons behind the companies that have been gifted our oil blocks, the Canje and Kaieteur Blocks in particular. We have frontally challenged players from both sides of the political divide to simply reveal who these people are, considering that, as we have calculated, even the most conservative estimate of revenue over the next decade would make a single owner of either block a billionaire.
The logic here is simple – any political entity that is both competent and truly interested in protecting Guyana’s patrimony should be radical about transparency, whether it is in the Opposition or in the Executive. What we appear to have instead is complicity when it comes to the silence and obscurity surrounding the beneficial ownership of the oil blocks. Despite our campaign, despite our best efforts, we have been met with temporizing, dodging, empty promises and feigning of ignorance by people who otherwise try to sell themselves as the smartest minds in the room.
When it comes to the APNU+AFC, there is either the pretence that they were not in power over the past five years or a very selective amnesia when it comes to the specifics of beneficial ownership. For the PPP, there is the pretence that they were not in power when the awards were given or a convenient amnesia on the particulars of the deal. In both cases, politicians with otherwise apparently prodigious memory on the errors of their ‘rivals’ across the aisle are somehow forgetful on what specific measures they took to ensure transparency as well as what those rivals did to breach it.
Opacity with regard to the issue of beneficial ownership in the fledgling oil and gas sector is – unless it is explicitly proven otherwise – the most successful area of complicity, perhaps to the point of collusion, between the two political juggernauts in this country. This cannot stand.
We can put every other public accountability measure in place from this point going forward, including as Vice President Jagdeo has proposed stringent transparency laws on oil revenues, but unless it is that we have transparency on everyone who has an ownership stake in every existing oil block, those measures are not only locking the barn door after the horses have escaped, but leaving a back door in the barn for newborn foals to run through.
There is a particular mindset that infects the developed world, one that taints virtually every single relationship, which they have with less developed countries like Guyana. It is sentiment of superiority accompanied by an ironic sense of ‘benevolence’, one that says that since we poor former colonial subjects, the descendants of the enslaved and the indentured, wouldn’t know how to handle our wealth in any case, it is only fair that they ‘help’ us in extracting it, giving us the pittance they believe we can handle while they take the lion’s share for their happiness and development.
This paper hopes that in the very near future, some epiphany is going to descend upon the leadership of this country, one which shows them that even if they are not directly involved themselves – and good sense indicates that some of them are – what they are doing to Guyanese is exactly what the developed world has done to countries like Guyana for decades, centuries even. The continued impoverishment of our people starts and ends with transparency about the individuals behind the companies who have been given ownership and control of our patrimony, our wealth. If Guyana is to set a credible and sustainable infrastructure for exploitation of our oil wealth to the equal benefit of all Guyanese, the complicity between the sides of the political leadership when it comes to keeping beneficial ownership of the oil blocks hidden from public scrutiny.
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