Kaieteur News – When Omai Gold Mines was first opened, there were high expectations. The Guyanese people were serenaded and told that this investment would do wonders for the country, create a great deal of jobs and improve the economy.
People were led to believe that this was the lost city of El Dorado. And that the gold, which would be dug up, would make millionaires of all of us.
Three million, seven hundred thousand (3,700,000) ounces later, the country is still wondering about the wisdom in allowing the exploitation of the mine.
Three million, seven hundred thousand ounces of gold was taken out of this country. In the process, the country suffered its worst ever environmental disaster, and yet Guyana is still poorer for all of that gold being taken out.
This company once flew in KFC chicken by airplane for its workers. This company once gave a loan to a union official. This is how multinationals operate. They spend lavishly and they court officials.
The deal with Omai involved generous tax holidays for the company. The taxes that the government derived from the operations did not come from the company, but from the workers. The company milked its tax holiday. It paid little or nothing in taxes. And how many workers were employed then, and how much of a difference did that make to the country’s coffers?
The government got five percent in royalties. Some say that was not a bad deal given the sort of investment that had to be made. After all, this was not a mine, which could have been worked by pork-knockers. The gold was very deep into the pits and required industrial machinery to drill to where it was.
What was very amazing about this investment was that in all its years in existence, Omai never made a profit. Not a dime. One wonders why they did not pack up and bail out earlier.
For years, gold has been extracted out of the country, and given the size of our population; every single Guyanese should have been rich by now from the wealth created. Yet Guyana is still one of the poorest nations in the hemisphere.
We have never learnt from that experience. Under colonial Guyana, we criticized the foreign multinationals for their role in exploiting us and taking away their profits. We went as far as nationalizing the industries, which were run and controlled by foreign multinationals – Bookers in the sugar industry and Alcan and Reynolds in the bauxite industry. It was our hope that with the commanding heights of the economy under our control, that we would be in charge of our wealth.
But within a short period of time, we were forced to invite other multinationals to come and take over these very industries. Booker-Tate came to manage the sugar industry, Green Construction and Mining and MINPROC were involved in the bauxite industry. And they did no different from what the previous multinationals did. Their executives lived like the old colonial overseers, while the workers enjoy paltry returns on their labours.
Today the situation is not much different. Foreign multinationals have returned to target our gold. And what are we receiving in return. A few jobs and some royalties! All of our gold will soon disappear and nothing much will be left. And our people will still be poorer. When will we ever learn?
It is the same with our oil. The foreign multinationals are here. They have gotten a sweet deal for our sweet crude. And they are extracting it like honey and carting away our wealth. And what are we getting in return – two percent royalties and few jobs.
And what do the oil companies get. A tax holiday, which is not much different from what Omai got. They have also gotten what Omai did not get, cost recovery.
Nothing much has changed. The names of the companies may have changed but the system remains the same. Our wealth is being plundered while our people continue to eke out a living. And we call that progress.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
Apr 16, 2021Kaieteur News – Yesterday, Chelsea Edghill, Guyana’s highest ranked Table Tennis player, earned Team Guyana’s first victory in the Latin American Singles and Mixed Doubles Qualifying...
Kaieteur News – Truth no. 1 – Gregory Smith concealed an explosive mechanism in a walkie-talkie and it exploded... more
Kaieteur News – When last did Guyana have a flu outbreak? At least not in the past year! It was reported in the media... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders Kaieteur News – Officials of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]