By GHK Lall
Kaieteur News – Something rare is done in this space: I focus on recent oil developments and emphasize what disturbs. Gas-to-shore project is the first, local content second, and third is, who really is for the Guyanese people. Should the latter be found, I could use the enlightenment.
A Tuesday news item in KN noted Guyana’s Natural Resources Minister sharing that ExxonMobil is readying to conduct studies on a likely gas-to-shore project here. I would have been surprised if the company was not doing so, not engaging in some preliminary undertaking as to the significance for its prospects. This is what progressive, competitive, and profit-oriented corporations do for feasibility purposes, its hoped-for exclusive control of such a project, and always to enhance its shareholders returns. The Minister informed Guyana that Exxon was embarking on that, for which we thank him.
I would thank him more – along with the Vice President and President, to present to all Guyanese what government intends to do about its own studies for this much-touted gas-to-shore project. This nation would be grateful to be informed of those entities shortlisted for such studies, the criteria used for the final selection, and with a sincere commitment to put before the Guyanese public, the entire and untouched results of those studies. The biggest thing ever to come the way of this country cannot be its most secret, it’s most crooked. There is nothing incestuous about this oil blessing of ours (other than for the self-condemning actions of political and commercial players), thus the powerful resistance to come clean on oil is most mystifying.
I have always believed that if there is nothing under-the-table, then darkness and hiding only confirms that it is, indeed, the underhanded at work. Since the PPP government is hell-bent on a gas-to-shore project, and at Wales mandatorily, then conduct the studies (like Exxon); but they must be our own independent ones, with everything disclosed to Guyana. That is what good governance is about; what honest and trustworthy leadership embodies; and what we need with this oil endowment, if Guyana is to maximize the benefits. Personally speaking, there can be nothing more straightforward, more helpful, and more persuasive, than a profusion of such practices with this oil. The PPP government has been a study in the opposite on most things related to oil, which opens the door to powerful conclusions about the integrity of its leadership at the highest tiers.
Another disturbing moment was that KN disclosure, compliments of a former well-placed Guyanese oilman, that the World Bank itself had advised against publicizing certain oil-related details. It disturbed, because the World Bank is supposed to be neutral (at least in theory and on paper); a kind of vigilant and protective big brother on the side of the little guys. Guyana is little, and desperately needs every muscular presence that it can get. Guyanese do not have clean representation in the PPP government; currently, Guyanese do not have a robust check and balance through a respected opposition; and hopeful Guyanese do not have an ethical and meaningful civil society presence to be their champion. When a venerable organization like the World Bank counsels non-release of oil information, then the goose of this society is cooked and consumed. Be assured that it is by others, and not the little local people who lose again.
On this note, I close out with local content. There is local content, but it is largely for our commercial interests, who have not a single word of dissent to utter about how poorly and unreliably our oil is managed. It is because local content at the enterprise level is executing profitable contracts with foreign companies. Members shudder at thoughts and positions such as mine, because such could ruffle the foreigners (and local political scoundrels), which upsets their income statements. It explains civil society is muzzled from saying anything about oil: its stalwarts are embedded in professional, technical, academic, and religious ranks. Show them the money, and there goes their integrity, their patriotic dignity.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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