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President Irfaan Ali spoke with a journalist from the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network during which the president appeared to lose his composure several times. The interview, which was made public on January 1, focused primarily on Guyana’s oil resources, but also included questions for the president on Guyana’s 48 per cent incidence of poverty, how government is using oil money, Venezuela’s claim to Guyana’s territory, the country’s forests, and other issues.
President Ali — who appeared uncomfortable, agitated, and even angry at several points during the interview — revealed that Guyana has, to date, discovered far much more than 11 billion barrels of oil reserves. It was confirmed, too, that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regime intends to extract oil maximally with an extraction target of 1 million barrels of oil per day by 2027.
When asked why Guyana did not nationalise the oil sector and gain more control over the country’s resources, the president said that it is not about control. The Head of State said that it is all about providing the best for the people. However, President Ali did not specify why national control of the sector is not the best approach.
President Ali appeared extremely agitated when told that a representative of Transparency Institute Guyana (TIG) had said that the average Guyanese on the streets would say they are not feeling the benefits of oil money and are not sure if in the future they will get any benefits.
The president angrily retorted.
He said, “I don’t know what survey [the TIG representative] did but let me ask you, let me put this back to you now, when you are able to give your citizens the best possible health care; when you are able to announce measures that is giving every single citizen who require dialysis a cheque every year to help them with that dialysis; when you are able to give every school child a transportation grant to help them to go to school; when you are able to give them a uniform grant; when you are able to increase old age pension; when you are able to ensure that the primary health care is working at its best for the people;
“when you are able to build roads all across the country to reduce the cost of transportation (through) farm to market access roads that reduce the cost of production, make the farmers more competitive; when you are able to expand and open up tens of thousands of new acreage of land for agriculture; when you are able to deliver 50,000 house lots to people; when you are able to deliver a children and maternity hospital that is world class to reduce maternal death; when you are able to invest in cancer treatment;
when you are able to invest in free education- 20,000 scholarships; when you are able to have a programme that will see 150,000 Guyanese trained as coders; when I am able to get Al Jazeera to come to Guyana, because of oil, but I can use this opportunity to showcase the rest of Guyana, isn’t there benefit that is coming to the people?”
President Ali vehemently defended the oversight arrangements that the PPP regime has implemented with respect to oil money. He underscored that the money was overseen by parliament. Although he did not address the fact that parliament is controlled by a PPP majority which, in reality, results in the political opposition having no influence on how oil money is spent.
Watch the interview here: