There is no question or doubt in the mind of any Guyanese that Kaieteur News has been leading the reportage on the oil and gas sector. Every day, our team uses its best efforts to research relevant topics and produce news items that can help to inform our leaders in their bid to create the right governance framework for the sector. Along with the research that is done on a daily basis, this newspaper is in constant communication with experts regionally and internationally with the sole aim of learning about the good, the bad and the ugly that comes along with the discovery of “the devil’s excrement”. This is just a small part of the effort that goes into what we do at Kaieteur News and even then, this publication has never been nor has it ever portrayed itself to be all-knowing on the oil sector. Editor, the oil sector is a complex field.
Kaieteur News, like everyone else, is part of a learning curve. Our only aim has been to champion the fight for better oil deals so that Guyana, not Kaieteur News, gets what it rightfully deserves for the exploitation of its resources.
In so doing, we have sought to examine what our neighbours have been doing with their oil industry. We need not look far or seek to reinvent the wheel when it comes to implementing the best practices for the benefit of our people. Last week, Kaieteur News spent several days examining some of the things Suriname has done to ensure that it gets the most for its resources. On November 29, 2020, Kaieteur published that the “Surinamese Petroleum Law explicitly mandates that contractors in the oil and gas industry must use local goods and services produced and/or available in Suriname, over that of foreign goods and services.”
This was juxtaposed against the disappointing reality that Guyana is without a policy or law that provides similar protection. The PPP/C has said that it intends to address local content and it is the hope of Kaieteur News that it would pay attention to what Suriname has done and apply what it believes have been the most effective provisions and implement same in a context-specific fashion.
Another article Kaieteur News published (November 22, 2020), exposed that “Suriname’s petroleum laws mandate that its accountants and representatives of a state enterprise shall at all times have access to the facilities, equipment, activities, accounts, files and registers of any oil company.”
Guyana, however, does not enjoy the same freedom. In fact, the Production Sharing Agreement Guyana has with ExxonMobil for the Stabroek Block states, the Minister “shall have the right to audit upon 90 days written notice, at his sole cost and expense, accounts and records of the contractor, maintained hereunder with respect to each Calendar Year within two years from the end of each such year.”
The contract states that the Minister may audit, examine and verify, “at reasonable times during normal business hours but not more than once per Calendar Year, all charges and credits relating to the contractor’s activities under the agreement and all books of accounts, accounting entries, material records and inventories, vouchers, payrolls, invoices and any other documents, correspondence and records necessary to audit and verify the charges and credits.”
Kaieteur News was keen to point out this disparity with the hope that the authorities of the day would seek to strengthen the powers, which it has to audit ExxonMobil’s costs. After all, these exorbitant sums ultimately have to be paid for by the citizenry via cost recovery.
Following these two stories, Kaieteur News’ team would have sought to examine, at the precursory level, how much Suriname has been able to get for its oil as opposed to Guyana. Before, the pundits hurry to unleash a tsunami of criticism, let me state that I am aware that there are numerous characteristics that influence how countries arrive at their fiscal regime. I am fully aware that one has to be extremely careful in comparing countries in this light. But please bear in mind that this is only done with the intention of raising awareness regarding how vast our resources are, along with the fact that the time has come for us to embark on an overhaul of our own fiscal regime to ensure that it reflects our new status and is in keeping with industry standards for new producers.
Indeed, such topics have to be approached with great care. If there are ways Kaieteur News can improve in its reporting on these matters, we welcome comments and corrections from all.
On this note, I wish to make a short observation. I have noticed that there are some individuals such as the prolific Professor Clive Thomas, whose written commentary on the oil sector, contains on some occasions, indirect disparagements regarding the work of this newspaper. In some instances, they do come across hostile. And indeed, that is his prerogative.
I have always been an aficionado of the intellect and invaluable local, regional and international contributions of this revered Guyanese economist and I will continue to be.
Be that as it may, I would say to Professor Thomas and any other person who believes that Kaieteur News has erred in logic, facts, or any regard, to reach out to the newspaper and make these points known. We welcome it! We thank you in advance for it! We have no interest in intellectual masturbation. And no one on this earth has a monopoly on knowledge. Furthermore, I am of the firm belief that disparaging each other gets us NOWHERE! If you wish to continue in that vein then Godspeed.
Once again, our sole purpose at KN has always been to educate Guyanese about what belongs to them and to fight for our future generations to have a life that is better than the one we currently have.
Let us continue to engage in mutually respectful discussions and agree to disagree in similar fashion.
Senior KNews Journalist