Nov 26, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – The question was as simple: what is the rate of return (interest) for ExxonMobil on its investments in Guyana’s offshore oil operations?
This was what the Minister of Natural Resources, Mr. Vickram Bharrat said in response: “The government is not directly investing in the oil and gas sector. That is the misinformation I believe that is being spread and there is this perception among our people that the government is taking the money and investing in oil and gas but if I ask you as the media how much money did Guyana invest in oil and gas in the oil and gas exploration offshore, we haven’t invested anything. We haven’t invested anything, not a dollar in the exploration, the upstream activities offshore Guyana.”
To put it charitably, Minister Bharrat did not do himself any favors with that answer to the most basic of questions about interest rate charged. To put a harsh touch on the minister’s response, he sounded like an amateur, and that meandering, off-key, and overdone answer made him lesser in the eyes of many. As we see it, there was no complexity in the question, nor was it a trick question. Regarding the mystery of this answer, we think that this is easy to unravel.
Minister Bharrat has been put in a bad place, given a dirty job to do. Worse, he has been given a script to speak from, and from which he must not deviate. He deviates and he entraps himself deeper, he deviates, and he ends up in the bad books of Vice President Jagdeo. So, he has to stick to his lines, however pathetic they are, and take the fall for those above him. He cannot provide a straight answer to that straight question.
What is the rate of return (interest charged and earned) is neitherneurology nor quantum physics. It is not even the intricacies of high finance. Yet this question about the interest rate that ExxonMobil charges Guyana has given Jagdeo fits, and now compels Minister Bharrat to speak with a tongue twisted beyond recognition, like a man possessed. We now proceed to dissect as best as we can this baffling answer from the Natural Resources Minister.
He said that “the government is not directly investing in the oil and gas sector.” Whatever prompted that answer, it certainly did not come from a question raised by this paper. For that bit “not directly investing” is known far and wide, restates the obvious, is a space filler, possibly intended to use up some time. He then went on to say that “that is the misinformation that is being spread”. If the government was actually investing directly in the oil sector, then there would not have been any issue, any inquiry, about how much ExxonMobil is charging Guyana as interest. Any question to that effect, and which includes ExxonMobil, would be nonsensical. The proper question then would be how much Guyana is paying for the funds that it invests (and not ExxonMobil).
Will somebody do Guyanese a favor and take Minister Bharrat out of the firing line. The PPPC Government should know better than to subject this decent citizen, this industrious minister, to this torture, this kind of humiliation. What should be dawning on all Guyanese is that what Jagdeo ducks and dodges from, he dumped on Vickram Bharrat, who has no meaningful answer to offer on ExxonMobil’s interest rate. From the beginning Jagdeo engaged in all kinds of verbal acrobatics to flip past and flop around the ExxonMobil interest rate question, as if his life depended on it. For a man trained in economics, he has had no number to give. Apparently, numbers are not part of the economics program which Jagdeo studied.
ExxonMobil could probably be ripping off Guyana bigtime with exorbitant interest rate charged. If it were a low or competitive rate, the company and Jagdeo would have been the first to put the question and issue to bed. Both would have bandied that about to demonstrate how ExxonMobil is a genuine and sharing partner. Because interest rate charges have become such a closely guarded secret, something smells like a rip-off, sounds like some story about corporate and political trickery.
AUBREY NORTON FRIGHTEN RENEGOTIATION AND RING-FENCING
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