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ExxonMobil has announced on Tuesday that it has made its 19th oil find in Guyana. Guyana is shaping up to be a black gold mine, but Guyanese are still in the dark about how the Government of Guyana plans to use the revenue from these discoveries for their benefit.
There are so many questions to be answered, clarifications to be made, and assurances to be given.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), when in Opposition, campaigned that should they get into government they will renegotiate the Exxon contracts. The main Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition, via former Minister of Public Infrastructure and Member of Parliament David Patterson, said they are open to the oil contracts being renegotiated.
The PPP/C and APNU+AFC together represent at least 95 percent of the electorate. This is more than enough united support to start the process to renegotiate the contracts. The assumption is being made that these calls were sincere. It was the PPP/C that said Guyanese deserve better from these contracts. And though the APNU+AFC was successful in renegotiating the royalty from one percent to two percent, which is a 100 percent increase, if was the PPP/C that said it could get better. It now has the support of the APNU+AFC to try to do this and should seek to achieve better.
Former Head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Vincent Adams said Guyana is in a better position to renegotiate and ExxonMobil needs Guyana black gold. From all evidence this remains true. Exxon’s finds thus far are estimated to be more than nine billion barrels of oil and gas. This does not include the 19th find. The company has been re-directing its resources to Guyana, recognising that it is sitting on tremendous wealth. The wealth belongs to Guyanese.
Guyanese rightfully want to know how much of the accumulating oil and gas finds they would benefit from through direct access in jobs and economic opportunities, indirect through development of public infrastructures, better education, health services, etc. Guyanese are yet to see a Local Content Policy that includes them in a meaningful way. People want assurances there will be the Policy would include all Guyanese and ensure equity.
Prior to the 2020 Election, both the PPP/C and APNU+AFC promised should they be elected to government they will examine the possibility of some form of Cash Transfer. Again, collectively these parties represent at least 95 percent of the electorate. There should be no difficulty finding a unified strategy to implement such a programme. The COVID-19 cash grant of $25,000.00 is not cash transfer.
The government has announced it will begin constructing an oil-to-shore facility in Wales, where the former sugar estate was. They said this project will create jobs and other economic opportunities. No feasibility study has been produced about the viability of this project, the soundness of where it will be situated, its impact on the environment, etc. Added to this there is uncertainty about Exxon’s flaring and any possible damage being done to the environment and aquaculture.
There is concern about Guyana’s ability or willingness to hold Exxon accountable to international standards and respect for Guyana’s obligations under the United Nations Paris Climate Change Agreement. It is reasonable to wonder with all these oil and gas finds, what is in it for the people? It is evident Exxon is going full speed ahead in exploiting Guyana’s resources. There is a strong perception, and some evidence, the Government of Guyana may not be keeping abreast or getting on top of these finds to ensure Guyanese secure the best benefits for these resources.