Apr 29, 2022 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Our oil wealth is a large part of our present and our future. It is compulsory, therefore, that we know as much as we can, and at the earliest, about what is going on with it. The oil is 125 miles from our shores, not even close to where we can begin to have an idea of what is happening with it out there. We have some tools now, but far too little knowledge and information of our own, regarding how much of anything (flaring of gas, producing of oil, discharging of toxins and other harmful by byproducts, and proper documenting and accounting) is actually occurring. We have to rely mostly upon what is given to us by others, who have dealt with us poorly, dismissively.
To know means monitoring, to be satisfied for ourselves, we must be about scrutinising constantly, for sound insights.
A small start was made with the objective of doing some of this in 2019, with millions approved for this purpose. Though we started off poorly, things improved significantly by the second quarter of 2021. Surprisingly, the Government of today saw it fit to leave the unused portion of that approved loan untouched, notwithstanding the good that it can mean for this country (“Govt. puts on hold US$20M World Bank loan to strengthen scrutiny of oil sector” -KN April 26). This flies in the face of commonsense, anything that could be considered as being a wise course of action.
We need to monitor, scrutinise, and know as much as we can about our oil, and on our own terms, but here is the Government of Guyana going in the other direction, by putting this loan on hold. It is as if Government leaders are saying that there is no urgency to make it a priority to do those things; perhaps, even telling each other quietly in their private discussions that there is no need for any substantial degree of scrutiny.
Despite the marked improvement in the second quarter of 2021 under the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Government said it wanted to reprioritise and refine how it handles the oil sector, which is its prerogative. But it would have been wiser to continue to build upon the progress of the ministry, while the refining exercise was unfolding. It is against this country’s interest to have around 75% of that US$20M World Bank loan languishing in cold storage.
We think that the Government’s putting a hold on using the remainder of this World Bank loan smells of recklessness and dangerousness. There can be no justification for this leadership slothfulness in preparing to scrutinise what goes on, as deeply as we are capable of, almost everything that goes on with this oil of ours. We must scrutinise our oil sector; because it is so distant from our land that we are clueless, almost helpless. Knowledge is power, and because we know so little, we are powerless.
A familiar picture from real-life should convey to all Guyanese the perils our government is courting. Think of a vehicle in motion, it does not matter whether it is privately operated or part of the public transportation network. It is proceeding at a swift pace, but there is no working gas gauge, speedometer, windshield wipers, possibly little by way of lights too. Some commuters have an idea, but no one really knows the true speed, how much fuel is left, and what must be seen through the rain or in the dark. This is where Guyana is, with its oil.
Guyana is operating blindly, hoping for the best, trusting its partners to do their part honestly, and deliver. Our oil world has been about exploring and producing, and gearing up to produce more. Little fault could be found with those, but on one condition only: that we have a bird’s eye view of what is happening. Monitoring and scrutinising constantly offer solid protections for this country. If we don’t work our hardest, use whatever means are at our disposal, to watch/scrutinise the oil companies, and keep them honest, we could end up losing more than we know, what we cannot afford. Scrutiny is a must, with more and more of it quickly.
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