PIPELINE POLITICS

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It’s a beautiful country, Rex Tillerson, is purported to have remarked about Guyana.

Especially if you own the oil rights and as much oil acreage as Exxon owns in Guyana.

The oil titan  controls  some 11.5 million acres in Guyana’s waters , the equivalent to 2000 oil leases in the US sector of the Gulf of Mexico.

Being a fossil fuel giant in the industry means retaining your position at the top of industry earnings.

For 2018 Exxon posted 20.84 billion in profit up from the previous year’s 19.7 billion. But even with these profits, Exxon has had to offset some insurmountable set backs , having made some poor long term investments, as in its 2010 purchase of XTO Energy for 41 billion right before the gas price crash and its losses along the way, as in its 2016 477 million third quarter loss, chalkinking up the 7th in a streak as crude oil crashed because of economic uncertainty.

A new source of fossil is, thus, the perpetual quest of Exxon to retain the moniker ‘Industry Giant’ for its 4.2billion outstanding shares – which is why some scrutiny of its history will show how willing it is to flex its diplomatic and economic muscle to squeeze some pipsqueak country into a courtship.

Exxon became Guyana’s suitor in 1999 and hung in through a maritime gun boat assault from Suriname in 2000 claiming the drilling area, a February 2004 tribunal resolution in Guyana’s favor of that claim, and a lengthy wait through more attempts at agreement by Ramotar and a subsequent acceptance of its overture by the Coalition Government.

It’s not that Exxon is not a quitter but its resume will confirm that it performs best on treacherous political terrain, where uncertainty and partisan backstabbing adorn the political landscape.

It’s the kind of environment in which they can lure the unsophisticated, self-serving politician into contracts with miniscule returns to the host country. Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea represent some examples of its predatorial culture and extortionist success.

Despite, however, the protective policy structures erected by groups like World Bank and other Transparency groups, Rex Tillerson, the oil marauder with cult- like devotion to the Exxon cause, has penetrated those barriers with exploitative creations like privacy clauses pegged to sign- on bonuses and gifts like the GYD 8 million to replace the University of Guyana lab equipment destroyed by fire…a comparative flea on a jackass’ back…

…and the shell companies that Exxon orchestrated, about a decade ago, to skirt US anti corruption laws and buy Liberian oil rights with corrupt intent….shell companies like the ones the Guyana Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative EITI showed…the ones with non-communicated names …..     

As barefaced testament to how much they know they are taking advantage of Guyana’s politicians, they are boasting their push for early production to merely combat their lagging position behind rivals . Typically Deep-water projects can take as long as a decade to begin producing.

But Exxon is in a rush and it can start its name restoration with a project that is only five years into discovery because the host country’s politicians are typical timid in the face of companies tossing around millions…
…even if the millions are short millions…

We wouldn’t see any need to renegotiate,” Oswald said on the sidelines of the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. “We allowed the government to take a signing bonus, increase their royalty, increase the training program. In return for that we got more time to explore”….
as they drill ….

That Guyana has agreed to a Production Sharing Agreement that benefits Exxon more than it does Guyanese is frustrating…

That it refuses to rectify its error in this open- window period before the official pumping begins is vexing and validates the image Exxon has of these owners of wealth that must be geographically misplaced…

…unrepentant novices who achieve spectacularly little while preserving their longevity by maintaining tribal division through the issuance of edicts that nobody else in the world listens to… except the Party.

Who cares about the people … we were elected…their shameless calling card.

The international bodies that scrutinize the details of Production Sharing Agreements have said that  Exxon has, essentially, taken advantage of Guyana’s naiveté, political stridence, even willingness to receive thirty pieces of silver for the patrimony they were entrusted to manage.

And, in the face of this, we have Government officials coming out with their limp explanations, offering tepid reasons for why they are knowingly derelict in the execution of fiduciary responsibility.

One the more entertaining of these partisan- more- than -patriotic -declarations came from the newly minted Head of Guyana’s Department of Energy, Dr. Mark Bynoe ,who’s remit it was to announce “Contracts are on a spectrum and they range from excellent to very poor. What we can say is that the current PSA may not be excellent but it is not very poor either and contracts do evolve over time.” 

One of his disciples, laughably, has already attempted to pillory me over saying that this guy is not qualified for this job. Let me say again that he is in his discomfort zone. These political appointments tend to blemish with indelible ink. He may never be remembered for what he is purportedly good at.

Maybe we can revert his salary to the lower end of the payment spectrum and when he finds his spine sort of bump it up to the “evolve over time” level.

The standard is not whether he’s “a good man“, as his disciple has proffered but whether he’s a good man for this job.

That’s what Guyanese deserve; irrespective of Party or Race.

Exxon is generally unapologetic about making exploitative deals. It’s the price of satisfying their objective of securing oil supplies for the US consumer. They work, they say, with the express intention of not violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by directly bribing officials of other governments.,

It’s just that there’s so many ways to get around it … like through those shell companies…and a couple pieces of silver…. an exercise that Exxon, under Rex Tillerson has made an art form…..

And with governments willing to accept these unholy bargains, multiple tax holidays and high royalties to Exxon whose annual net profit is multiples of their country’s GDP, much in the form of success is not realized – not as quickly as Exxon profits accrue to the point of impressing its investors.

Chad remains that quintessential example of Exxon strangulation.

On the weekend that Guyana celebrated its 53rd Independence in New York, I attended a presentation hosted by Guyana’s Opposition at a Hindu Temple in Queens New York.

To the simpletons I’m a double agent but I attend these things as an objective observer who pens a well read Opinion Editorial based on firsthand information, for the most part.

I, typically, invite other Guyanese who share the same passion for an improved Guyana. I was accompanied by two of Guyana’s finest minds and lament that the third such person was unable to attend because of a job related emergency. He is an oil chemist for a major conglomerate.

It would be a salient omission not to state how much of the spirit of the presentation was about Pipeline Politics.

That aside, the presentations were unsurprisingly instructive, given the expertise of some of the better known presenters who underscored the disservice of the Production Sharing Agreement in its present form and showed why, in terms of real gains, it is imperative for the contract to be re-negotiated before the Spouting date in 2010. 

But I’m still left with questions …lots…and am still curious about when the contents of EITI, especially as it pertains to the inexperienced and Not Communicated holders of oil lots, will be shared in digestible bites to the electorate…explaining why these shell-like entities (given Exxon’s familiarity with this type of chain holding) own those lots at all and what State Asset Recovery Agency is doing to ensure that the investigation of these lots doesn’t die with a change of government.  

The disquiet some feel about the Exxon Agreement is understood.
The people they are depending on to represent their generational interest are expending questionable effort.

Presidential elections will be held later this year and the traditional Parties because of their entrenchment in the voter psyche will get the majority of the votes and the majority of the seats in Parliament.

But getting there should be far less of the usual scholarship earned simply by being a certain race and therefore of associated ideology.

And telling the electorate to avoid supporting candidates choosing to navigate only this battered path to governance should not be a nuanced endeavor but an assignment executed with both pride and fervour.

The one- vote majority in a Unicameral house has been nothing short of political theater and has now become the weapon of choice for Politicians who feel that the Halls of Parliament and the doors to the Treasury belong to their Party and Race.

Being the third poorest country in the hemisphere, with the smallest population and more poverty and social ills per capita should not only be screaming the need for changing the method of selecting politicians, who campaign on humility and govern with immodesty but should be demanding that government includes Civil Society in more areas that require less government bias but more direct feedback from the people- to ensure that decisions are more for benefit of the community than to entrench Partisan ideology.

Checks and balances should be an incessant demand. It should be the catchphrase of Civic Society. It should be the tail end of untiring calls for Constitution Reform since the current one remains more of a weapon against the people than it is a guide to their rights to gainful living.

Choosing a candidate is more racism than economic anxiety…. measuring the actions of the electorate and Guyanese in the Diaspora.

The invitation to the Queens Meeting was posted on some Facebook sites more to celebrate non attendance than to inform.

The Opposition has suddenly found Contract Religion while sitting in the pew…with a historically preserved record of corruption and oppression.

One country, two different Celebrations, one 53rd Independence. It couldn’t get clearer than that. Partisan support rallies around racism more than it does individual economic distress. And this, in itself, is a losing strategy; for racism survives by strength in numbers.

The demographic composition speaks for itself.

The No Confidence Motion that was delivered through the unscrupulous massaging of a Member of Parliament ,who sat amongst a team that was too self absorbed to evaluate his repeated bad behavior as a threat to their impregnability, will present the opportunity to to go to the polls in short order….and to vote for Parties outside of the two traditional behemoths.

Couldn’t be a better time for Guyanese to demonstrate their evolution from the primal essence of division and separation by turning out in enough numbers and voting for every Party with the hope of chipping away at the Parliamentary monopoly the traditional behemoths exercise with cavalier indexterity to the peril of the majority.

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