Parties should allow Members to choose Leadership in Guyana and Caribbean
The PPP’s supporters in rural communities are in an economically vulnerable position. Fishermen, small gardeners, market vendors, sugar workers, rice farmers, taxi drivers, labourers, domestics are all mostly self-employed and do seasonal work. Incomes are not always steady and there are periods of unemployment. Unless the Government develops a new system of ongoing income support, occasional cash grants will not solve the problems of these rural folks. A new system that includes a “living wage,” unemployment benefits, regular payments to housewives, etc. requires much more money. That is why it is so important that all Guyanese, and Indo-Guyanese, in particular, must speak up and put pressure on the PPP Government to ensure that any new model for the oil contracts called PSAs (Production Sharing Agreements) must secure the world average income a country gets from oil which is nearly 62%. We now get only 14.5%. VP Jagdeo’s recent utterances does not give much hope that a new contract will be significantly different.
In the recent interview of the VP on the Kaieteur Radio , the VP apparently set out to demonize and mock at Mr. Lall, making several personal attacks, but Mr. Lall kept his composure and simply smiled. When the VP went low, Mr. Lall went high, as Ms. Obama had said. The VP’s utterances revealed that the PPP Government really loves the PNC contract enough to leave it, as is. In effect, the PPP seems to be saying nothing is wrong with the PNC secretly-signed contract. They vowed never to renegotiate the contract called a PSA (Production Sharing Agreement) for the huge Stabroek Block with 11+ billions of barrels of oil. More and more oil is being discovered with every new well drilled. Nation, if the PNC agreement was made when it was felt we had only 3 billion barrels of oil, do you think we have a case for renegotiation now that we know we have 11+ billions of barrels of oil? So, what’s a good reason why our Government does not want to ask for renegotiation, which is permissible?
The interview was not a debate between Mr. Lall - a self-made, successful businessman - and the Moscow-trained VP. Mr. Lall wanted the VP to give answers to “burning” oil related questions. The VP dodged some very important questions, “pleading the fifth” as we say in the USA, as Mr. Lall’s blunt questions stumped the VP a few times. The VP sounded more like a star opening batsman for the Exxon Team, rather than the opening batsman for the Guyana Renegotiation Warriors Team. The VP was apparently more concerned about the “stability” of Exxon’s income from our oil, rather than the stability of the income of Guyanese, and increasing the pittance we currently get. Whereas Exxon/HESS/CNOOC gets 85.5% of the gross income, Guyana gets only 14.5%. And the VP appears to think that’s a good deal, since we will not “review and renegotiate” as they promised during the 2020 election campaign. That was a Manifesto promise made, promise not kept. The PPP essentially misled the voters as they used the Global Witness Report profusely during the campaign to say the PNC sold us out down the river. Now, safely ensconced in power, the PPP has reneged on their promises. The PPP Government should know this is a big, unpardonable sin, that may eventually bite them in places they don’t want to be bitten. The PPP had been very arrogant before and has not learnt a lesson from their narrow loss in 2015. Guyanese may not want the PNC to get back in power, but they also surely do not want the old-time arrogance and triumphalism of the PPP.
When Mr. Lall asked the VP: “What would be your reaction if I am to win the pending tax case I brought against the state and ExxonMobil. The VP said: “Yeah but I’m not dealing with hypotheticals, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” Lall: “ You don’t have a reaction?” VP: “No, no, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Lall: “Yeah, so then who side you on, my side or you on the other side?” VP : “I’m not on any side at this time. I am not on any side.” Lall: “Are you sure?” The VP failed this question because there can be no neutrality when a public citizen is doing what the Government should have been doing to secure taxes for a poor country. But it became quite apparent that the VP did not want Mr. Lall to win the tax case for the people of Guyana, because the VP said later, he does not believe in corporations paying taxes. So here we have the little people and Guyanese companies having to pay their fair share of taxes, but our VP does not want the foreign oil companies making billions of US in profits, to pay corporation taxes, as these companies do in other countries. Why?
When asked about what he would have done differently than the Coalition, what rate of royalty and percentage of profits he would have asked for, and corporation taxes, the VP became his usual long-winded self.
Given the views of the VP in the KN Radio interview, it seems unlikely that a new model of a PSA will be much different from the PSA for the Stabroek Block. The VP seems more interested in the foreign companies getting a sweet deal rather than Guyana getting the “bigger end of the stick.” Nothing the VP said gives any hope that the new PSA will put Guyana first. I call on the Government to make it an open, public discussion and solicit views of the populace on what should be some terms and conditions of any new PSA. The Opposition also needs to ring in on this issue, rather than wasting time filing frivolous, inconsequential lawsuits. While the PNC leadership is asleep on this issue, the PPP will likely continue to betray us. We must seek to influence the structure and design of the new PSA to make sure we get closer to the world average take (income) of 62%. Secrecy was our problem with the PNC’s 2016 PSA, and we must not allow secrecy with the new PPP’s PSA. Wake up Guyana! It’s our wealth and our country.
Dr. Jerry Jailall