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Since it was announced Guyana would become an oil producing nation there have been repeated calls my me for local stakeholders’ engagement in determining a way forward. It was hoped such engagement would have realised mechanisms being put in place to guide local content policy, programmes and laws to make sure the industry is managed to the benefit of society. Instead, this nation continues to be subjected to politicians who cannot put their differences aside in the interest of the common good.
Today the nation is confronting not only the calls for oil contracts to be renegotiated and transparency of ownership of those oil blocks, but our health and environment are facing existential threats. The continuous flaring by ExxonMobil is a threat to our wellbeing yet the government has taken a resigned posture by saying to us they are “hamstrung,” they are incapable to hold the company to account. No government is rendered powerless unless it chooses to be.
Government is ultimately responsible for the country, its Exclusive Economic Zone, the business environment, and the welfare of the citizens. Any government understanding and respecting of these principles would move with alacrity to bring to the table recalcitrant businesses that threaten the welfare of the citizens and the environment therein.
The Irfaan Ali regime is making excuses not to act to arrest the problem and protect us from further harm. They have taken a policy position of inaction i.e., not to do anything, and we are being asked to accept what Exxon says that “hopefully” the problem will be resolved by April. The quantification by scientists as to the damages being wrought on the nation from January to April is troubling.
ExxonMobil is a Multinational Corporation that is not unmindful of its reputation. The company has been held accountable before by scientists, workers, governments and even their own shareholders to engage in environmental best practices. Nothing prevents the government, other than its own unwillingness to act, to meet with Exxon leaders and/or agitate internationally to have this situation corrected. They are rolling over and accepting that for four months Guyanese must suffer, and they expect us to accept this suffering with resignation. It is unacceptable.
Dr. Vincent Adams has been very outspoken on Guyana’s management of the industry, including holding the previous coalition administration he was appointed by accountable to demanding standards consistent with international best practices. As he continues to weigh in on what we are doing wrong, and could do better, we must take him seriously given his knowledge, international experience and track record in the industry. Whereas it is his expert opinion in the field that the government is not “hamstrung” to act, I am too convinced based on the duty and responsibility of government to a nation and its people that the government can act to arrest the problem.
It has only been one year since Guyana became an oil producing nation. The disasters we are having should not be expected from a company in the business for years and has a Consent Decree with another government/nation to reduce the amount of waste gas being flared in that environment. Exxon can do better and must be held to such standards.
The Government of Guyana cannot continue to take a do-nothing approach because they are exposing us to a bleak future. Flaring poses clear and present danger to Sustainable Development and a Green Economy which Guyana commits to by being a signatory to the 2015 United Nations Climate Agreement. Now is the time to put aside partisanship, which is informed by political immaturity and ethnic tribalism.
We must put Guyana and Guyanese first in the face of continuous threats by external forces who stand to benefit from internal divisions. I reiterate the call for the Government, Opposition (including the main opposition), civil society, trades union (GTUC, FITUG and non-affiliated), and all stakeholders to put our heads together in national discourse to shape policy, programmes and laws on this industry that cut across universally acceptable interests. We must aim to ensure our resources are sustainably exploited and this generation bequeaths to future generations a better society.