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On the watch of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change Coalition Government Guyana in August 2017 applied to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which is supported by a coalition of government, civil society, and companies. In October, the same year, Guyana became a member, joining 54 other countries. The mission of EITI is to promote open and accountable management of extractive resources, which are oil, gas and minerals. This means that the resources, which belong to citizens in respective countries and should be used for their benefit, are properly accounted for by elected and public officials.
The EITI is an international agency that can well expose politicians, their families and associates who use public office to access resources for their personal benefit. In hindsight, the Coalition Government could have been more forthcoming in the manner in which they proceeded in dealing with Guyana’s extractive resources, particularly oil and gas. In the absence of full transparency, building on the previous Donald Ramotar government where the Canje and Kaieteur blocks were given away in secrecy a few days before the 2015 Election, the Coalition should have known they opened themselves for ridicule that they too have something to hide.
Albeit the Coalition’s short fall when that government voluntarily applied to have Guyana become a member of the EITI it created opportunities to right past wrongs. It suggested that the Government of Guyana was prepared to share information about the extractive sectors with an international watchdog organisation that will grade Guyana’s performance based on a universal metric. It was an opportunity for all, indigenous and international, to review how these resources are being managed, whether they entailed corrupt practices and are being exploited for the benefit of the people.
The achievement of complying with EITI standards would have been good news for Guyana given that public officials would have been required to come clean on their dealings, if any, in the extractives sector. Thus, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic government’s failure to meet the deadline of submitting Guyana’s Report on 31 December 2020 placed the image of the country in jeopardy.
Guyanese stand to benefit being a member of the EITI, which “seeks to strengthen public and corporate governance, promote understanding of natural resource management, and provide the data to inform reforms for greater transparency and accountability in the extractives sector.” The Government is not unaware of the wide held belief that corruption is high in Guyana and primarily among politicians and their associates. This Government is also not unaware that on its watch Guyana for years was ranked the most corrupt country in the English-speaking Caribbean. With this haunting image it makes no sense failing to meet the deadline unless deliberate.
According to the EITI its “Standard requires the disclosure of information along the extractive industry value chain from the point of extraction, to how revenues make their way through the government, and how they benefit the public.” This information should not have been difficult to produce since the local office has been operational for years and a report was submitted in 2019. A visit to the local EITI website (https://eiti.org/guyana) shows it was last updated 9 June 2020.
The created suspicion, particularly given the shrouded secrecy or feigned ignorance about who own(s) Canje and Kaieteur blocks, makes non-submission of the Report more ominous. Those blocks are reported worth multi-billion United States dollars. It is yet to be seen what action will be taken by EITI for Guyana’s failure to comply. Non-compliance fuels perception the Government has something to hide. If this is not the case, then the Government must make an effort to have Guyana’s Report submitted soonest.