Oct 23, 2020 Letters
There was a recent article in Bloomberg, which noted that “ExxonMobil Corp plans to lay off an unspecified number of employees.” This is yet another indication of what the condition of Exxon is, and where Guyanese leaders had the company.
The announced layoffs are the latest in a string of news that speaks of the unhealthy and unfavourable state in which Exxon currently operates. From share value to financials to investor anxieties, the news is mostly troubling. It is not the momentary lurch of a company functioning with strong underpinnings and palpable power. I say this because some of the dismal news has been coming out in bits and pieces for the past several years. What I described deliberately as bits and pieces qualify to be a serious understatement. Regardless, when added, those same bits and pieces of negative information are substantial in revealing the true weaknesses of Exxon. That vagueness of “unspecified number of employees” to be axed was intentional, and meant to conceal the haemorrhaging at Exxon, its anaemic state.
Because of all of this, it is bewildering that PPP leaders had an opportunity to wring Exxon’s arms, but the best that they could have done was to shake the hands of people handling Exxon’s business in Guyana, fawn over them, and surrender to their corporate whims and pressures. Our leaders were in a position to apply strong pressure on Exxon. We (our leaders) knew that the company is in a bad way. We knew that it was not standing on firm ground. And we knew that it had gambled heavily on the Guyana prospect and prize.
The 2% deal executed by the coalition provided the needed umbrella of protection against possible Venezuelan designs. That was in place, and as cheap and unfavourable as it is to Guyana, the Venezuelan factor was effectively contained; managed and contained, not altogether neutralized. But circumstances had changed for Exxon, publicly so and undeniably so. Everyone who can read is able to follow the litany of its woes. Exxon was no longer in the driver’s seat, calling all the shots, telling us to get with the programme; or jump out of the way or risk getting run over.
Like I keep saying, we had Exxon and its arrogant people below the equator and should have held company and captains in the tightest squeeze. I do not think that anyone needs a translation of the geographical into its anatomical equivalent. Further, it is widely known, too, that Exxon had risked a lot of its assets and future on Guyana’s production and Guyana’s terms. That was when it was strong and swaggered. It cannot do so anymore. But the risk and exposure are there, which meant that we – Guyanese leaders representing the Guyanese people – held their mortgage. And, again, that mention of mortgage reduces to a simple everyday situation. Those who owe know this in the workplace. Vulnerable employees, with mortgages and the future over their heads, are handicapped from being too independent, too outspoken, too resistant. They swallow pride and toe the line to get by to manage with the next instalment coming.
We are the bank, and Exxon is banking with us and on us. That is crystal clear and should be the end of the story where who is better equipped to drive a hard bargain and squeeze the last drop of concession from the other. Exxon did that to us before. That is what the company had coming to it and should have been delivered, not necessarily with roundhouse blows, but in telling jabs in convenient spots. Sure, it could have suspended operations or withdrawn. But to do what and go where? And leave all of Guyana’s fabulous prospects on the table?
Similarly, Exxon could have gone to court, but we could play at that game and drag things out. For Exxon, time is money. And it does not have much of either. Last, Exxon could have appealed to the State Department and have sanctions threatened under some specious disguise. But Guyanese held out for decades under bad governors and did better in some respects. Something had to give, and Guyanese leaders were in a position to force Exxon to get some sense and get real. Give some kernels of corn or risk losing corn and husk. To my regret, PPP leaders did not do justice for Guyanese.
And the most incomprehensible thing of all is that PPP leaders had Exxon down, but they did not put it out. I think I know why, but that is another story for another day. Just look at all those honourable people around our oil. It has made utterly dishonourable and despicable people of bigger and better leaders elsewhere.
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