Guyanese should support developmental thrust

Dear Editor,
There have been incessant cries of doom from a certain media house and other oil and gas ‘experts’, and they have been churning out ill-conceived and outrageous statements about lack of transparency, unaccountability and corruption in our fledgling oil sector.
The manner in which this is peddled would make the gullible believe that we are on par with Nigeria when it comes to corruption. This example is now abused. These ‘comparisons’ are being made to Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and other African States, but this is where the inherent error in the analysis lies. Guyana cannot, and should not, be compared to these countries.
Let us look at Nigeria, for instance. The Nigerian Government has earned over US$400 billion since 1970, but the population faces harsh living conditions. It is worthwhile to note that oil earnings comprised 85 percent of government revenues and 99 percent of export earnings. It is also important to note that, according to reports, “oil wealth fuels the instability, corruption, and patronage-driven politics which characterise governance in the country”. Matthew John wrote that, “Corruption runs through every level of Nigerian Government. From massive contract fraud at the top, through petty bribery, money-laundering schemes, embezzlement, and seizing salaries from fake workers, it is estimated that corruption within the state apparatus costs the country billions of dollars every year’. (Campbell, Page, John, Matthew (2018). Nigeria: What Everyone Needs To Know. New York. pp. 89–103.)
The reason why this high level of corruption exists in Nigeria is because, “these gas industries are under the control of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), and many politicians own or have shares in these industries, tax revenues from the energy sector are diminished, and the benefits of Nigeria’s energy wealth is not evenly distributed throughout the country, with Lagos State benefiting disproportionately”.
This avenue does not exist here, does not pertain to Guyana. We collect our share of profit oil, which is subject to audit, and this Government has made it clear that our oil wealth will ensure that the socio-economic development takes precedence; in other words, the other sectors will not be allowed to retrogress, and infrastructural development will continue to be a priority.
In Nigeria there is a vast gap between the rich and the poor, whilst, in Guyana, the Government is ensuring that every community is evenly developed.
It must be noted that Guyana receives 50% of the profits from EXXON, and this revenue is not unaccounted for and available for corrupt practices. The receipt of oil revenues began in February 2020. Moreover, the Local Content Policy ensures that Guyanese receive a fair share of the oil industry. The primary aim and objective of the Policy is ensuring the education, inclusion, and advancement of as many as possible in the value chain of the oil and gas industry.
On Monday last, Vice President Jagdeo explained to his packed meetings in Berbice how Regions 5 and 6 would benefit from this Policy. He also made it known concerning the various developmental plans which the Government would roll out shortly to develop the agriculture sector as well.
This Government is spending our monies wisely and with great prudence, unlike the Coalition, which spent close to 2 trillion dollars with nothing to show. It was Farmer Nappy and Buju Banton galore, but with this Government, it is COVID Cash Relief, Flood Relief, and now Cash Relief for severed sugar workers. What a difference!
We should recall that the US$18 million bonus was a mystery, and it was nearly siphoned off by the Coalition after many denials and excuses. This is not the case with this Government. There was no Sovereign Wealth Fund in Nigeria until 2012, and hence the revenues earned were available to be squandered at will. This would account for the high level of corruption in that country. In addition, there was a series of highly corrupt governments in Nigeria from 1964 onwards.
I would agree that if the Coalition were still in Government, then there would have been a similar scenario to Nigeria. The corruption of the Coalition started since the signing of the PSA, and that would have continued to grow and fester with each receipt of oil revenue. The PPP/C Government rescued Guyana from being somersaulted down this corruption abyss. No wonder the Coalition fought relentlessly to stay in power.
Guyana is different. There is such a Natural Resources Fund, which was set up in 2019 by the Natural Resources Act, in accordance with the Santiago Principles. It must be noted that, to date, not a dollar from the oil revenues has been spent, which would have amounted to nearly US$500 million.
The naysayers need to come to reality that this Government has so far been implementing both short- and long-term policies which would ensure that Guyana would never suffer from the Dutch Curse or Disease. This can be seen with the myriads of development taking place in the agriculture sector. We have an industrious and knowledgeable Minister of Agriculture, who does not sleep. Even during the devastating flood and its aftermath, he ensured that the sector kept going and improving.
In this Agriculture Month, we are indeed in the process of ‘Transforming Our Food Systems’, and will achieve food and nutrition security. Our President, at the virtual meeting of the Caricom Regional Food Systems dialogue earlier this year, spoke at length about food security of the Region, and this was again reiterated at the recent UNCTAD meeting, which also addressed the importance of the other sectors; namely, oil and gas, mining, forestry, tourism, the hospitality industry, transportation, housing and water resources.
Oil and gas, as well as the other sectors, are vitally important, and this Government has been ensuring that that emphasis is fostered. Our real GDP is growing, as is evidence by the Mid-Year Report, which showed 14.5% growth despite the vicious pandemic and the catastrophic floods.
It is time for all Guyanese to support the developmental thrust of this Government, and stop making unsubstantiated and misconceived assumptions. Our country will make significant strides ahead.

Yours sincerely,
Haseef Yusuf