The recent report released by Global Witness shows the urgent need for Guyanese to consider claims made by international “experts” with greater scrutiny. The report received great interest across Guyana, and many readers have been willing to take its conclusions as gospel. Yet at the same time, a great many experts and officials have rejected the report.
As was widely reported, Global Witness accused the Government of shoddy negotiations in 2016, causing some $55 billion in lost revenue for the people of Guyana. They also recommended that Guyana stop offshore exploration, cancel already allocated licenses and not award any new ones, limiting our energy production to the few wells in Stabroek that are already being developed.
Global Witness drew the $55 billion figure from an OpenOil analysis, comparing what Guyana could make with the global average profit without acknowledging the differences between Guyana’s fiscal regime and other more “frontier” oil-producing countries. Yet almost immediately after its publication, a chorus of voices arose against the study. Articles from Forbes, a globally respected business publication, and Valerie Marcel, former leader of energy research at think tank Chatham House, attacked the findings for being inaccurate and fallacious. OpenOil even had to release a statement to defend their analysis.
Even other analysts have found issues. Rystad Energy, whose raw data OpenOil used in its analysis, announced that it felt that the contract will earn Guyana a 60 per cent take. Shockingly, Rystad also reported that they believe our contract to be favourable compared to our peer group countries, where they calculate Government take to be in the range of 50 to 65 per cent.
The brain behind Rystad’s report is Sonya Boodoo, Vice President of Upstream Research, who has an extensive background in oil and gas in the Caribbean. According to her LinkedIn profile, she worked as a geologist for the Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago from 2007-2011 and has both a Master of Science in energy studies with a specialisation in oil and gas economics and a Bachelor of Science degree in petroleum geoscience. Rystad’s staff also includes an impressive number of geologists, petroleum engineers and market research analysts.
On the other hand, Global Witness and OpenOil do not boast many industry credentials. Jonathan Gant, the author of the Global Witness report, describes himself only as a “senior campaigner” and doesn’t provide any educational background or energy expertise. Johnny West, OpenOil’s founder, is a journalist who worked as a Reuters correspondent in Egypt in the 1990s and for other smaller publications in Central Asia. His background is in Classics and Contemporary Arab Studies, with a limited 13-month stint as a UN advisor.
This may explain why despite having a range of “experts” arrayed before us, Guyana is bombarded with contradictory findings. I fear that this will continue to be the new status quo, as international interest will only increase and Guyana is likely to be viewed as a case study or a pawn for the ambitions of international organisations. It is on Guyanese to ask whether these “experts” have real experience and knowledge. Even more importantly, it is on us to ask what the purveyors of such reports are hoping to accomplish with their work. Do they truly have the best interests of Guyanese in mind?
I believe it is the civic duty of every Guyanese to ask these critical questions and to seek to educate themselves on the industry that will surely shape our futures for generations to come. It is inexcusable to allow ourselves to be led astray – we must be wary of all and be thoughtful and critical when accepting or rejecting the guidance of others.