May 16, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – A year and a half after this country’s much hailed ‘First Oil’ moment, numerous Guyanese still wonder if this grand prize is a mirage and when it is ever going to convert to meaning and substance for them. Massive money numbers are thrown around by political leaders, but there is a noticeable absence of meaning for citizens in the kind of quality of living experienced.
There is surely much remedial work to be completed before we can think of progressing. This is traceable to the 19-month political, electoral and leadership quagmire, including five months of a transparent attempt to rig the results of an election, that prevailed, as well as the now over a year-old pandemic that shows no sign of abating. In addition, to those must be added the accumulations of all the years of squandering, through the extravagant pilfering by one political group and inner circle after another. Having said this, and acknowledged so, we still put this before our fellow citizens, to make them think.
The foreign companies keep coming, and they are making a financial killing from the inception. Reportedly, hundreds of them are interested in doing business here. They only stir to do so, when they are assured of rich profits; otherwise, there is merely lukewarm reaction, if any at all. They are mostly Americans, who first skim the cream (all of it) and then carry away the milk, which is their just reward for the democratic inspirations that they laboured so intensively to deliver here. Second, while the Americans and Europeans, the new waves of the 21st century model of voracious colonisers, reap the rich crops, many Guyanese are still straddling the lines of stifling poverty, chronic crime insecurity, acute political venality, and individual, family and communal dependency. Third, this is most evidenced in two realities: quality jobs and quality of life standards. It would be interesting in the thousands of jobs promised by the government, how much of such represents a net change on the upside with employment, given all these commercial arrivals, and the related flurry of investments, projects, and activities. Fourth, our local blue chips are careful to position themselves sensibly, and operate quietly under the radar, so as to evade unwanted attention; but they are in the hunt, and they are picking up lucrative partnerships and business opportunities. It is local content harvesting for the top notch, old-line firms and names, and seemingly automatically. The ordinary Guyanese man and woman, eternally expectant, are left on the margins, as usual; and with disappointments and yearnings the norm.
Moreover, we have heard about several billion-dollar (U.S.) projects and borrowings, for factories and plants and housing and much more. Yet we are still to hear anything of one squatting area regularised, one depressed area (or slum) that has been rehabilitated. Or one place earmarked for prioritisation as a model of where some of the fruits of all this borrowing and activity and visions are materialising. Instead of such political and leadership idealism taking hold, there is a new and unprecedented set of circumstances now at work in Guyana.
First, there have been the discoveries of billions of barrels of oil and oil equivalents, and the fevered excitements they trigger. Next, there is this sudden and unfamiliar availability of billions of U.S. dollars in free-flowing funding, which prompts borrowing of those many easy billions. The combination of the two (billions of barrels and billions in available loans) has served to unleash market forces of a kind and variety never encountered here before. There is the traditional corruption by agents of the state, elected and selected, but nowadays, in the heyday of oil, there is this costly new strain involving much siphoning off in pre-market and other underhanded contractual dealings. The fingerprints and modus operandi of known political players are there for those who care to dig deep. It is why they hide and break dance unsuccessfully.
Moreover, we have been hearing that hundreds of foreign companies are interested in coming here to do business, which is to be expected. But from our perspective, this is not so much about exploration and production, as much as it is about a full-fledged occupation, an upstream and downstream oil grab. In the convulsions of deal making, what we have is an army of capitalist mercenaries, whose only loyalty is to money. Guyanese should not be surprised if a former U.S. Secretary of State does not wing over to lobby for the big names. Somebody has to call things as they really are, and we have been doing so more than everybody else. Our peers prefer to go along to get along, if not hoping also that some sweet incentivising will be coming along their way, too. It could be from an appreciative government, or a pleased foreign entity. To all this, the ordinary Guyanese is unconscious, from all this, he is the one left out: always hoping, still waiting.
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