I wish to recognise the exposé: “VP tells oil companies to rent, not purchase local properties,” as published in the February 16th, 2021 edition of the various print media. I would like to agree with the Honorable Vice-President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, especially since this topic has been an area of great concern for which I have strongly advocated since 2015, when the previous Government was in power.
To me, the idea of buying local properties is irrational and needs to be reassessed, with strict laws in place to prevent not just the big oil companies, but some of the wealthiest foreign industrial, commercial, and manufacturing industries and personalities from making us beggars in our own country.
In my opinion, it would be unwise to open a new door for these companies without first ensuring that Guyana and Guyanese are getting their due. As such, my heart is smiling to see that our current Government is looking at these issues with much attention, and I must compliment the honourable Vice-President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo on his wisdom and conscientious leadership as it relates to our oil and gas sector. We know that he speaks on behalf of His Excellency the President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, the Cabinet, and the Government of Guyana.
Since 2015, I have expressed the same sentiments in various media: radio, my Islamic television programmes, social media, and in the print media, as the honourable Vice-President pointed out in his recent speech. In one such article: “Companies and contractors need some control”, published in <<Guyana Times>> on February 11th, 2019, I stated that these oil “Corporations and businesses operate as persons, and they look after their self-interests and the shareholders first. We, as the owners of our independent country, must ensure we protect our assets and our citizens and get maximum benefits for our country and people.” I further went on to state: “We must ensure that valuable lands and properties are secured for our children and our children’s children for generations to come. Otherwise, we will have to rent lands, flats, houses, and offices from the foreign investors, and we will become nothing and own nothing.”
Our properties, particularly our lands, must remain Guyanese-owned. This is not a novel idea, but it is something that has been achieved in a variety of countries, including Trinidad and Tobago. Any lease must be in the name of a Guyanese, who will contract with foreign partners to build to suit, or lease to them for a sum, so that they can build their own property.
Additionally, we need to set down strict laws whereby assets cannot be transferred to their names. Subsequently, a law must be established that if anything is done clandestinely with local personalities, very strict penalties would be enforced.
Renting properties from Guyanese will cause us to build to international standards and specifications needed by the investors and oil companies, and give Guyanese an opportunity to raise their standards and control the valuable assets of Guyana. In this way, we have local content wealth preserved and circulation of funds. It is important to mention, let us remember that these companies, even if they register in Guyana as a Guyanese company, they always find ways not to pay the requisite taxes. They tend to export their profits from Guyana without any benefit to Guyana and Guyanese. Some Guyanese may have a few low-level paying jobs here or there, but for high-paying management jobs, these corporations still seem to be overlooking and undermining our people whilst bringing in their own.
At this juncture, I wish to once again recognise the Government of Guyana for looking out for the interests of all Guyanese and our future generation. I reiterate that as Guyanese, we must look after our own peoples and generations to come by not selling or leasing our land to any foreign industries – not only oil companies, but industrial and commercial ones as well.
We must ensure that our properties remain Guyanese-owned. I, the undersigned, respectfully ask that we move quickly to make this a law. We cannot sit back and watch these companies that are only interested in their own well-being and shareholders suck our nation of its resources dry.