Oct 23, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Everyone who listened to reggae music in the early 1990s would remember the haunting, soulful voice of Garnett Silk, the Jamaican phenomenon who was set to be the new reigning King of Reggae until his untimely death in 1994 trying to rescue his mother from a fire caused by an accidental gunshot hitting a gas tank.
There is a metaphor in there somewhere for the current situation of oil and gas in Guyana, an explosive situation that – because of careless behaviour – endangers generations of ordinary Guyanese people. Silk’s music was powerful precisely because it spoke to, and spoke for, the cycle of poverty that working class citizens found themselves in because of poor leadership. This newspaper has spent years exposing corrupt deal after corrupt deal conducted by government after government, with our reporting hitting most recently upon the indecent oil and gas deals entered into by successive political administrations. If there were a theme song that could be ascribed to what we call the “Fleecing of Guyana” series of articles, it would be Silk’s song, ‘Advantage’. As the chorus says:
“They’re taking advantage of the underprivileged, Jah Jah
Too long living in bondage
Advantage of the situation
I work, you get the promotion…”
We admittedly live in a society that has been marked by gross inequality from its very foundation, beginning – the elite in Guyana have been taking advantage of a bondaged, under-privileged class since slavery days. What is however worse about the current day situation is that the people being take advantage of and the people taking advantage are essentially the same people.
Over the past week alone, we have focused on just one oil block, the Canje Block, reporting revelations that show the level of sheer advantage that has been taken on the people of Guyana in the giveaway of this tremendously valuable property to a single company.
Both the People’s Progressive Party/Civic and the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change governments have – after the initial revelations about their giveaway of oil blocks – claimed professional naïveté in their dealings with the oil companies, both large and small, both experienced and inexperienced, sort of implying that their novice status was exploited by more competent partners. As we have seen with the increasingly damning revelations about the oil contracts however, the only people who have been taken advantage of in the oil deals are the ordinary people.
Let’s take for example, the situation regarding the issue of capital gains tax – as reported in our lead story in today’s issue, Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas that received the Canje Block in a virtual giveaway has embedded in its contract that it will not pay capital gains tax. Let’s say that we were to allow that there was a certain level of inexperience that allowed subsequent governments to sign off on and let stand a contract in which a novice company would be given a massive oil block at the dawn of an oil boom, and that the Ramotar administration was bamboozled into an unsupported pre-contract cost commitment of $100 million – nothing excuses or explains, otherwise than outright complicity, why is it that such a fundamental, general public revenue measure that is extended to every single Guyanese citizen, is removed for an oil company already handed unprecedented advantages.
Beyond the theatre of the particulars, behind the veil of the denials and the obfuscation, there is the situation that Garnett Silk described in his song:
“Everyone is looking out for themselves, God knows
They care about no one else, and I know
They work their tricks by giving a little
Only to deceive you…”
Over the next few weeks, months, years, Guyanese will have to take the initiative to increase their vigilance on what is taking place in the oil and gas sector, both with regard to what has passed and what is to come. It’s either that or the profiteers and the companies that are in bed with them will continue to take advantage of the situation, living in splendor, while the average citizen of this country is going to continue living in bondage.
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