I am a fan of the Kaieteur News, with high regard for its Publisher, Mr. Glenn Lall and Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Adam Harris.
Further, I grant them the right to be critical of this and any government. To bring to the attention of readers, matters of current interest, but always in the context of the real world in which we live, with no time for fancy or frolic.
Since our discovery of oil and gas, we have been bombarded by a plethora of experts – soothsayers, accountants, attorneys, overseas petroleum experts and now we have a local petroleum academic, whatever that is. They all seem to know what we should be doing. Look at some recent headlines – ‘Daily oil production figures must be made public,’ then ‘Suriname put strict local content requirement on all oil companies, next,’ ‘ US demands immediate disclosure of details of finds. So should Guyana – ‘Petroleum Engineer’ and so it goes on and on, what seem to be a relentless crusade. Last week, one section of the media boldly carried comments from Market Vendors. I suppose we can next expect comments, criticism and advice (“sic”) from groups.
I suppose we can next have to expect publicity from groups of masons, teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, preachers, pastors, grave-diggers and telling the government what they should be doing that they are not doing. First, this is their democratic right to be allowed to talk and write on any subject the Constitution and openness of the present government allows this.
However, the trouble is these persons are making comments based on what they read in sections of the media, television, radio and fellow travelers. The majority of statements have enthusiasm of so-called experts at home and abroad – not necessarily the whole story with no empirical evidence.
If you may coin this metaphor ‘oil is a slippery substance and leaders and people, particularly, of small countries must be careful not to slip and slide, if lucky, we can fall on our butts, if not so lucky, we can fall on our heads causing serious permanent damages.
There is a Statement that Surinam got a better deal for the oil. I tried to find out the recent comparison. As a layman, it appears that Surinam off-shore oil was found in the same vein as the oil found in Guyana waters and therefore the cost to bring up the Surinam oil is considerably less since the exploring companies would have already spent large sums during work in the Guyana basin. That may explain if there is a difference of what the State receive.
May I say in all of this, I think the Coalition/State Media should put out a simple leaflet to explain the oil and gas situation and how the government is coping with an extremely delicate, some may say, explosive subject. As a result of oil being found in commercial quantities outside of the U.S.A, in an effort to have some say and control in 1960 with much fanfair, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was established with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The initial members were Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia and Venezuela. Other members who joined later were Algeria, Angola, Congo, Equador, Kabon, Libya, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, and Equatorial Guinea. In spite of this purported oil wealth, note the turbulence and dislocation in every one of those countries. Saudia Arabia, of course, is a separate kettle of fish.
More than a decade, after OPEC was formed, there was the oil crisis. Without notice, oil prices increased by 400 – 500%. Guyana being one of those adversely affected since like most countries relies on petroleum products for domestic and industrial purposes. In so far, as the industry is concerned, there is always twist and turns. Trinidad, we hear that they have lost $US45 billion over time because of the alleged inexperience of their negotiating teams.
Recall, the famous three words by the then Trinidad Prime Minister Eric Williams, when in the face of criticism at home and abroad, he said ‘Oil don’t spoil.’ These experts, who write and speak really don’t understand the complex if not confusing situation of oil. Oil has become a matter of intense power play by mighty men, rich entities and strong nations. Look at our two neighbours, Trinidad has had to cut back with social services, Venezuela, mass exodus due to lack of basic facilities and political turmoil.
Who would have imagined thousand fleeing Venezuela because of poverty? Unbelievable, an oil producing country. The reason, let’s face it.
Oil and the power play of mighty men, rich entities and strong nations. I have spent time in the State of Texas, the heartland of the oil industry, spoken with persons who live and work in the petroleum sector. Likewise, I meet folks from Trinidad, where my wife is, even those with PHDs, scholars and executives in petroleum related disciplines who admit that oil is the subject of power play by mighty men, rich entities and strong nations over which, small countries like Guyana, have little real control.
Over the past few years, the Government has received offers of assistance from many experienced countries and leaders including the President of Ghana who visited with us last year. I rely on the calm Statesmanship approach of President Granger in dealing with this matter. Oil can be a bane or a bounty, a benefit or a burden and we need a calm with resolute approach in dealing with this matter.
Oil has caused the three ‘Cs,’-Confusion, Coups and Corruption in many countries around the world. The list is long and revealing. We are dealing with mighty men, rich entities and strong nations.
I go to Eugene F. Correia Airport and witness helicopters taking off, assigned to one or two of the oil companies. More helicopters than the Government and Private Sector have except in the Burnham days, when we had a fleet of Soviet, French, US, British and American-made Helicopters. It is always so easily criticized, ignoring the dynamics of the real, all be it, imperfect world. When my friends, for example, say we should demand and do like what the United States does, it sounds good, but the old folks say ‘wha mouth nah load.’
When these so-called petroleum academics and home grown experts pontificate and beat their chests, let them tell us how they would do as U.S does with dealing with large entities. When the US tells companies and even another country to do something, and the other side fail to comply, the US has the muscle and might to ensure that their wishes become a command, so those who shout, we should do as the US, do not understand the real world in which we live.
Should I tell my neighbour’s donkey to run as long and fast as a thoroughbred? or a little child to lift the same weight as a heavy weight lifting champion? Let us develop and acquire skills to negotiate with the experience. We must possess the acumen to maximise diplomacy, the skill to be shrewd and the audacity to overcome odds. We must employ the above to the maximum, but not to be like the Ostrich to hide our heads in the sand. For years, we were told we have oil, off-shore and on-shore. The first real sign of oil was drilled at a site called Karanambo 1, where they came up with a light oil capable of producing 800 to 1000 barrels per day, not sufficient for a further investment.
From time to time, other efforts continued, some turning up, dry wells. First, there was home-oil, later as a Member of the Cabinet, we were shown a vial with samples of high quality oil extracted from an area in the Takatu basin. Later, the exploration company hunt oil in that same area, claimed they could not produce oil in commercial quantities. End of Story.
As Guyanese, we welcome the reality of oil, at long last, fulfilling the dreams of many who have gone to the great beyond. Oil is a matter for mighty men, rich entities and strong nations. They say sometimes, half a loaf is better than no loaf. True patriots, instead of criticizing everything about oil should help us navigate the best for our people, not by damnifying everything but by constructive dialogue and difficult as it is, trying to get facts and figures.
Guyana entire population is less than one million souls and less than the numbers found on a busy block in Manhattan, China or Russia. Our crusaders, must accept with reality in the world which we live and set about to help this, or to help any government to deal with the petroleum conglomerates.
What will be a great advance, is this; after the elections, that the major successful political parties should meet and an Agenda should be crafted to deal with oil and gas and come up with a menu of measures, so that when the Government speak to these petroleum conglomerates, they are not speaking for 40,50 or 60 percent of the population but will be speaking for 99.9% of the population. This will send a clear message to those who explore for oil and other natural resources, that we are united, and we speak with one voice and overcome the old ‘bugbear’ of dividing rules.
We have seen the challenges of small countries who made powerful speeches at the U.N. and elsewhere but next they fall prey to the wiles and wishes of the mighty men, rich entities and strong nations. Over years, as we see from many examples, oil, diamonds and gold are being used to bring the stress and distress to many small countries. Let us stop the saber-rattling with paper knives and forge unity that will give us a fair chance in this challenging world.