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A Reuters’ story out of Texas (August 17, 2021) reported Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo saying the Government of Guyana will renegotiate the oil and gas profit-sharing agreement (PSA). He reportedly made the announcement on the sidelines of the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas, USA that Guyana is attending. This may come as a surprise to many who are yet to hear a clear and definitive statement to this effect from President Irfaan Ali.
If the President has authorised Jagdeo to speak about this matter on foreign soil then he should also address it here at home. There have been numerous calls to re-negotiate all elements of the oil and gas contract, and to publish the names of those who were awarded contracts. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in opposition campaigned on a promise to do this.
The oil contracts inked under the presidency of Donald Ramotar are still shrouded in secrecy. The owners are still to be made public and the PPP/C government should make available the information forthwith.
To the credit of the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) coalition government they renegotiated the royalty payment from one percent to two percent. They also responded to calls and released the contract signed by them but there was no contract renegotiation under them. At the same time it cannot be ignored that the politics of non-cooperation and the no-confidence motion created a volatile and divisive political environment. However, since then the coalition has said they are open to renegotiating the contracts.
There is hardly anyone, group or organisation, that has not called for these contracts to be made public and Guyana to renegotiate better deals. Government has sought to ignore these calls and citizens are refusing to stay silent. This is good for democracy because democracy dies in darkness, when the masses are silent or complicit to actions by the government they dislike.
According to the Reuters’ report Jagdeo promised the new PSA will be tougher than that negotiated with the Exxon consortium and could be ready within six months or so. He has also informed the government has made it clear to the oil companies that any new PSA they negotiate for the blocks, the conditions will be very, very different than the ones from the Stabroek block. Citizens await fulfilment of Jagdeo’s talks. There would be expectations that these were not talks to appease a questioning media and adamant Guyanese populace that a better deal must be had.
Any negotiation of the PSA, likewise renegotiation of existing ones, should not be done in secrecy nor should any announcement be made on foreign shores first. The oil and gas resources belong to Guyana. All Guyanese should not only first know what is happening on home soil but actually feel this through direct involvement and benefits. Guyanese will also expect any new PSA to place them front and centre and not negotiated to the benefit of a few but to the benefit of all.