Jagdeo calls for release of oil contract

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has called out Government for hiding behind secrecy, saying the Administration should take up its role as the “guardian of transparency.”
Jagdeo took another jab at the ruling Administration, which is already receiving criticisms from many sides over its handling of the emerging oil and gas sector. On Friday, the Opposition Leader said Government has been putting forward very weak arguments about the reasons for the non-release of the details of the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA), stating that it has the freedom and responsibility to do so.
Jagdeo admitted that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) while in Government had allowed the insertion of the confidentiality clause in the initial contract between the then Government and US oil and gas giant ExxonMobil. However, he said the ruling Administration now has a responsibility to exude transparency. He said most contracts have confidentiality clauses that govern the negotiating period.
“I am saying now our position is… they are saying the PPP was deficient, it was not tabling all these contracts. You are the guardians of transparency. Imagine they are defending this more than we are. They were supposed to be different,” the Opposition Leader said.
Jagdeo said Government while in Opposition, had forcefully campaigned for transparency but has now seemingly backpedalled on its position.
Regarding to 1999 contract signed under the PPP Administration, Jagdeo noted that at that time, there was nothing in the country. “We were putting people to explore. We were not getting exploration dollars flowing in the sector,” he told journalists. He said without exploration dollars, oil could not be found and reminded of the issue with Canadian oil and gas exploration company CGX and the demarcation problems involving neighbouring Suriname. According to him, Guyana had lost some 10 years of exploration after that.
He said Government is seeking to mislead the public when Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman said the Administration inherited the contract from the previous Government. He said he could not understand Government’s explanation regarding the reasons why it cannot release the details of the contract.
“You have to honour the content, not the secrecy. I believe that when you generally negotiate, you should have a period of secrecy. Once the contract has come to an end, then the agreement can be made public by the Government,” Jagdeo noted, continuing that in light of all that has been said, he has already asked Government to release everything it said the PPP Government was not transparent about. That includes both the original and revised airport contracts along with the Marriott contract.
Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader said Government is failing to address the core issues surrounding the oil and gas sector. These include the Production Agreement itself and transparency surrounding the agreement. He said too that the architecture for managing and regulating the industry and its resources have been trodden upon.
Jagdeo further posited that Government’s first attempt to define the sector’s architecture can be found in the Petroleum Bill that was taken to the National Assembly. According to him, what was shown there gives little or no reason to believe that there will be transparency by the Government and that it would be able to manage the resources in a technical manner.
“We saw and heard in the debate, the Minister can appoint the Board; the Minister can fire the Board; if the Board is not appointed, the Minister is the Board; the Minister can appoint the Chairman and fire the Chairman, and the Minister can become the Chairman if there is no Chairman”, Jagdeo said, noting that the Commission is a technical body and should be staffed with technical people. He said Government has portrayed a pattern and intends to have political hands on the oil resources.
Jagdeo reined in too the issue of local content legislation which was promised to be placed before Parliament. He said with all the broken promises, Guyana is no way closer to having public debates on a model government was hoping to pursue.