Yesterday, this newspaper reported on the actions of an overseas-based Guyanese group, operating out of Queens, New York, which has decided to go public with its calls for the renegotiation of the oil deals. The group which goes by the name Oil and Gas Governance Network has launched their campaign with the message “Renegotiate Oil Contract Now.”
The group has embarked on a petition drive in Little Guyana and, from all accounts, the response has been enthusiastic with many persons in the Queens area, willingly signing the agreement. The action by the group follows the quiet but growing protests at home in which citizens are coming out and standing silently by their gates and chatting with the friends on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and which has also seen motorists toot their vehicles’ horns in support of the protests.
Public expressions of disapproval, over the oil agreements are gaining momentum. People have been listening to Glenn Lall, and they are gaining a better understanding of why this deal is simply the worst in the world, and why it is unacceptable.
This newspaper has been receiving a steady trickle of photographs of persons joining the thrice-weekly, five-minute protests. Some of the images show people standing silently while others reveal images of persons holding up cardboard pickets, even in remote mining areas.
Our leaders are only deceiving themselves into thinking that the Guyanese people are not concerned about the oil deals. The Guyanese people are keen followers of local events and they are reading and listening to what is taking place.
The feedback is not generous towards both the APNU+AFC regime and the incumbent, PPP/C, regimes. Because of Glenn Lall and this newspaper, Guyanese, both local and overseas, are coming to appreciate better how their leaders sold them out. The public is also gaining an appreciation about how no deal is cast in stone. The Production Sharing Agreement provides for renegotiation but requires consensus which is only fair. However, our leaders are hell-bent on invoking an archaic legal principle called “respect for the sanctity of contracts” as an excuse for not renegotiating the contract even though the contract itself makes provision for renegotiation.
Ironically, it was President Ali who is reported last week as having instructed his Attorney General to review drainage contracts and if needs be, to ‘renegotiate’ those contracts to insert penalty clauses for failure to discharge duties in relation to those contracts.
Yet, the Head of State and his Second Vice President continue to foot the line that the Government will not renegotiate the Production Sharing Agreement signed between the GoG and Exxon Mobil, CNNOC and Hess but instead, will seek a better deal for future contracts.
But what future contracts? The consortium which is operating within the Stabroek Block can use the existing contract to buy-in and gain the same rights for other blocks. So what future contracts does the PPP/C expect to renegotiate?
Also, other oil companies will use the existing contract as a precedent. They will demand the same, if not more favourable terms than those presently enjoyed by ExxonMobil, Hess and CNOOC.
In June 2019 – six months before the no-confidence motion – now Second Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, was quoted in this newspaper as saying that the contract with Exxon had set a precedent for how contracts are made with other companies. It is therefore a tad strange that he should now be excusing his government’s failure to renegotiate that contract by claiming that future contracts will be different.
Renegotiation is part of the risks which all oil companies assume. It is not unusual or impossible in the oil and gas business for contracts to be renegotiated. In February of this year, Nigeria, Africa’s largest exporter of oil, said that it will renegotiate its oil agreements with the foreign multinationals operating in that country. In April of this year also, Mexico indicated that it will renegotiate its oil deals with VITOL, the world’s largest independent oil trader.
But why look so far. Trinidad and Tobago has renegotiated its energy agreements. At the time, the Prime Minister of Trinidad said this, “There’s a role for the government in ensuring that the people of Trinidad and Tobago, while being participants in this very lucrative business, get more than crumbs that fall off the table”.
Guyanese should not settle for the crumbs which the oil companies are throwing Guyana’s way. And they should put pressure on the government to renegotiate the oil agreements.
Glenn Lall is leading the way and his appeals are gaining traction, including in New York. But those joining have to be tactical.
Appealing to President Ali will not be enough. Unless President Ali has persons around him who accept the need to renegotiate, then he cannot be expected to push for renegotiation.
(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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