May 04, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Even though while in opposition, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), would have heavily criticised the Stabroek Block Agreement signed between the former Coalition government and US oil giant, ExxonMobil, it has refused the opportunity to renegotiate the contract now that it is in government. This is the view of General Secretary of the Guyana Trade Union Congress, Lincoln Lewis, who spoke to several matters concerning the country’s oil sector as he delivered his Labour Day speech on Saturday.
In light of Lewis noting that many have dubbed the contract as “lopsided,” it must be said that it is no secret that a range of its provisions are crafted in ways that would cause Guyana to suffer value leakages to great extents. Some of these non-beneficial provisions include: Guyana paying Exxon’s billions of dollars taxes; discrepancies with the pre-contract costs; unspecified interest rates expensed to Guyana for loans to the oil entities; weak environmental standards; the country’s inability to control the amount of oil being produced and infrastructure cost irregularities between the Liza One and Liza Two Floating Production, Storage and Offloading vessels.
Interestingly, while Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, was Opposition Leader, he had on many occasions lambasted the Coalition for the poor deal signed with Exxon. In addition, last December Jagdeo even acknowledged that some of the wording in the Stabroek Block Production Sharing Agreement creates the impression that
ExxonMobil and its co-contractors have sovereignty over Guyana. “I do have problems with making it seem as though Exxon has sovereignty within a sovereign nation. I do have problems with that kind of configuration,” Jagdeo had said, adding that, “…and some parts, wording of the contract confers or creates that impression that they have sovereignty over the country.”
Despite that utterance by Jagdeo and criticisms of the contract the Coalition government signed, Guyana is yet to see a renegotiation between Exxon and the PPP/C government and changes to the contract’s wording.
To that end, Lewis lamented that the PPP/C’s failure to renegotiate the very contract they condemned, is hypocritical. “This is clear and demonstrated hypocrisy by the present regime and the depth to which they took this country, the violation and lies they were prepared to commit to get into office,” he stressed. He also outlined that the very Coalition opposition that signed the “lopsided” contract has given a public commitment in support of a renegotiation.
This publication indeed would have reported on the Alliance For Change’s Member of Parliament and Shadow Minister for Oil and Gas, David Patterson, challenging the Irfaan Ali-administration to renegotiate the Stabroek Block agreement with ExxonMobil. Speaking in Parliament last September, he said that the PPP/C had repeatedly promised throughout its elections campaign to renegotiate contracts in the oil sector and “it is well within their right as the sitting government to do as promised. They have been chirping for more than three years that there is a better deal to be had. Well, if there is, go get it.”
Lewis, a veteran trade unionist, is of the firm conviction that while the contract signed with Exxon may have limitations; the Irfaan Ali regime is also expected to do much more in areas of workers’ protection and advancement. He posited that so far, it has failed to work with the Opposition and trade unions to conceptualise and introduce laws, policies and programmes to secure the welfare of the workers of Guyana.
Lewis stressed, “It is disheartening what is happening in the foreign-owned oil and gas sector,” and insisted that Guyanese must not be bystanders to transgressions and violations in their own land, hence a renegotiation is paramount.
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