Jul 31, 2022 News
By Davina Bagot
Kaieteur News – Guyana is being sold to investors as a rich land with vast resources – resources that are a birth right to the people of the country – yet the citizens are suffering to make ends meet.
This was the picture drawn by a protestor during the past week as the call for a renegotiation of the 2016 Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with oil major, ExxonMobil continued into its ninth week.
The male protestor who did not state his name noted, “I work in non-productive, non-resource country already and work for US$5,000 in 17 days and we got a country with so many vast resources and yuh can’t even see yuh way, what you working for when the week or the month up?”
He explained that he has joined the protest action to not only demand better value for the oil and gas resources, but also for a change of government, as he believes that the leaders of the country are not making decisions in the best interest of the people.
On Monday during his keynote address as part of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center’s Leaders of the Americas series, President Irfaan Ali boasted about Guyana’s “prolific mineral resources” and encouraged the United States of America (USA) private sector to take advantage of opportunities to invest.
In President Ali’s opening remarks, he noted that Guyana’s biodiversity and environmental wealth is well documented. He said, “Our forest stores 19.5 gigaton of carbons, the standing value of our forest is over US$500 billion, our forest has the potential of earning in excess of US$100M in carbon credit in an annualise way, this alone can drive tremendous development.”
To this end, he highlighted that the opportunities Guyana’s natural resources sector holds are incomparable, “where 36 percent of Guyana comprises of highly mineralised area.” The Head of State then noted that what that means is that, “We are very rich in minerals such as gold, bauxite, commercial deposits of copper. These are all areas that we can now support to be competitive with the investment necessary, whether it’s the roadways, the opening up of these areas in a way that is sustainable.”
While responding to questions from Senior Director of the Adrian Arch Latin America Centre, Jason Marczak, Ali noted that the Government of Guyana views the US as an important partner.
To this end, protestors said, “Why should we carry Exxon on our backs” and “dishonest politicians are a national problem”. They were at the time holding their placards on the Houston, East Bank Demerara public road.
Meanwhile, another protester last week said, “Guyana, I telling you please wake up fast. Don’t sit down anymore. Is over 50 years we going through punishment through both governments…”
Another protestor said he does not believe Guyana is an independent nation as the country is “in the stranglehold of the United States of America.” He made reference to the fact that President Irfaan Ali and Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo were summoned to the US for meetings with the government to discuss areas of partnership. However, he is convinced that the conversations have not been of benefit to the Guyanese people, as it is the already developed nation that would reap the fruits of any agreement.
The protest exercise is held on weekdays between 10am to 12noon. The activists are determined that changes must be made to the Exxon oil contract.
Among the miniscule terms accepted by the government are a mere two percent royalty on its sweet light crude and a 50 percent profit share, after ExxonMobil deducts 75 percent of the total lifts for its expenses. Key provisions are also lacking in the agreement such as full coverage insurance for any mishaps offshore to cover all damages and ring fencing, to avoid the oil company from using the petroleum revenue in one field to cover for expenses in another. The lack of the ring fencing provision can result in Guyana never seeing the returns it was promised, according to one international analyst, Tom Sanzillo.
It is because of these reasons that the citizens have joined forces to demand change from their leaders. In fact, the call for such changes is gaining momentum as a civil society body, Article 13, has commenced its own protest exercise, hinting to take its activity countrywide in a bid to alert more Guyanese of the unfair provisions in the oil contract.
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