May 17, 2022 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Guyana’s own National Oil Company (NOC) has a compelling ring. An NOC of our own would be a source of pride, and all that is represented in such an entity of the people. But only when we are ready to have one, when we have the kind of leaders to oversee it, the quality of people to operate it. Currently, we at this paper could assert with authority that we have neither the leaders needed nor the people demanded to manage such a national undertaking involving the trillion-dollar promise of this country’s oil sector.
Let’s face the facts on the ground straight off the bat. Guyana has been presented with billions in US dollars for oil-related expenses, and leaders are struggling to locate (or so they say) auditors with the required skills. If this country is so severely limited in an area so costly, so safeguarding, then it does not call for much of either vision or imagination, as to how handicapped we would be to start from the ground, actually be able to run, and succeed with an NOC.
Next, Guyana has sizable oil operations occurring offshore, but it does not have a complement of specialist engineers onsite to watch out for this country’s interests, regarding whether things are as the oil companies report they are, or if the facts are far different. Then, we labour with antiquated laws to stand in oversight and control this natural resource bonanza, but are missing the necessary expertise to modernise those laws comprehensively and quickly. Whether auditing or skills or laws, and these are simply the tip of the iceberg, this country is in a Dark Age where its oil is concerned.
It makes no sense, therefore, for this emphasis, this undue rush, towards an NOC. The time is not ripe for that yet, far from it. The vital components that are prerequisites, such as the cohort of people, the technological architecture, the ethical underpinning, are just not around at this time. All those compulsory building blocks are absent, or in short supply. This just doesn’t make for much sense, and comes across as one more pie-in-the-sky concoction from the calculating minds of leaders that serves their interests, and not those of the nation.
To support our position relative to an NOC, we have NICIL, and look at what a viper’s nest that has been, under one government after the other. The giveaways and cover-ups, the sellouts and buyouts arranged between friends and cronies that have all worked to the disadvantage of the citizens of this society. It is highly likely that the same calibre of people that stood over the many skullduggeries of NICIL are the ones that are in mind for an NOC that would come, in time, to represent the same kind of prearrangements and outcomes.
On another note, we encourage our fellow citizens to look at the history of other oil producing countries of longstanding, to gain an appreciation of how they went about establishing an NOC, and thereafter what resulted. To give a glimpse, we point to Saudi Arabia and Aramco, Mexico and PEMEX, Venezuela and PDVSA, and even Brazil and Petrobras. There are two features that are common to all of those countries and the NOC that they setup.
First, it took them a long time before they found their footing, decades to be exact, and they decided that the time was ripe for an NOC worthy of the name. Though it is still up in the air, as to what an NOC in Guyana would turn out to be, and the full scope of its existence, it could be said with conviction that there are numerous other priorities, some identified earlier, on which we should devote our energies and scarce human resources.
The second feature of NOCs in almost every country has been the graft and corruption that characterise their draining presence. They become feeding troughs for connected elites and political hacks to gorge themselves. It transforms into the mechanism to plunder the oil wealth, and all under a legal umbrella. Corruption is killing us at every level, thus this extension into an NOC is a feeding ground that could become the nation’s burial ground.
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