I have just started reading the book “Blowout” written by Ms Rachel Maddow, the Emmy Award-winning host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”. The book has topped the New York Times Best Seller list since its launch a few weeks ago.
The book deals with the greed and corruption of the oil industry and includes Ms Maddow’s comments on the contracts signed with Governments around the globe which have, among other things, propped up authoritarian regimes.
I checked the index and sure enough, Guyana is part of that story. On pages 353-354, Ms Maddow writes about the now-former head of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, refusing “to explain, exactly, how it was that [ExxonMobil] managed to secure twenty years’ worth of oil rights in Nigeria despite reportedly being outbid by a Chinese-led consortium by more than double – by more than $2.25 billion. Is it possible that there was a little sweetener there for someone in a decision-making capacity over that contract? Maybe? Anyone want to check the books? Did every Nigerian official who looked at that potential deal just independently – and for the good of his or her country – decide to give away $2.25 billion?
How about the details of the production agreement ExxonMobil had negotiated with Guyana, which included an $18 million ‘signing bonus’ to the Guyanese Government? ExxonMobil would not be disclosing the amazing footwork that must have led to those improbable deals. “We are a commercial enterprise and we have competitors,” Exxon’s Man in Guyana explained. “And learning bits of information about how other negotiations have worked or how our negotiations work – the things we value – provide kind of intellectual property to competitors.”
“KFC has its secret herbs and spices, fracking companies have their proprietary slickwater goo, and apparently Exxon has its secret special menu of exactly which Government officials or proxies an American oil company must pay off – and how well – in order to secure the right to profit from a country’s natural resources. Without hassle from said Government.”
First oil is still to flow here but Guyana’s reputation is already tarnished and the corruption of the Granger Government is on the New York Times Best Seller list for everyone to see.
I also agree with Mr Alexander Ramessar’s opinion that future gains from the oil industry here and elsewhere will be short-lived. (SN letters, October 24, 2019) Every progressive and forward-thinking political leader in the developed world – the major gas guzzler – supports energy policies that will lead to a much lesser dependence on fossil fuels in favour of green energy sources.
The dizzying glee and greed here over the coming of oil might well have a brief shelf life and Mr Ramessar is right to advise and caution that our economic policies should take this into account.