Three of the four dailies on Friday headlined the second oil find by ExxonMobil at a well called Payara-1. Past predictions about the presence of petroleum deposits in off-shore Guyana were confirmed when ExxonMobil’s announced its world class discovery, the largest for 2016, at its Liza well. If the Payara-1 turns out to be large, then the predictions of much greater deposits in the area could be accurate and much more oil could be found.
The amount of petroleum deposits that have already been found is enough to transform Guyana. But somehow Guyanese do not yet appear to be impressed. Casual conversations with Guyanese suggest that the cynicism that has developed from decades of promises based on Guyana’s agricultural potential, that Guyana could become the bread basket of the Caribbean and Guyana’s failure to take off economically, continues to exist. When told about the prospect of oil wealth for Guyana, and what it could mean for the future, many Guyanese are dismissive and unbelieving.
The truth is that Guyana would be transformed and we need to choose how. It would not happen overnight, of course, but by 2025 Guyanese would be feeling the impact of the oil income, which would continually increase. The Government appears to be making preparations to establish the legal framework and institutional mechanisms. There is no evidence that it is making any effort to reach out to the Opposition to build consensus from the earliest stage. If the Government wants political and national consensus going forward, it needs to start consultations with the Opposition early or face the possibility of a perennially contentious situation for our oil industry. Former Minister of Energy of Trinidad and Tobago, Kevin Ramnarine, speaking in Guyana recently, urged the establishment of a national oil and gas company to manage the oil industry, whose leadership should be insulated from politics. While this is easier said than done, it can be accomplished if the effort starts now.
I recall that long before a year had elapsed of Mrs. Janet Jagan’s presidency, an outcry arose regarding her failure to hold a press conference. She eventually held one about one year into her presidency. The voices calling out Mrs. Jagan in 1997-8 are still around, but have gone silent on President Granger failure to hold a single press conference despite having been elected to office one and a half years ago. The Norconsult Report on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) is only one of the major issues of great importance facing the country and a serious and coherent response is yet to be had from the Government.
When the Norconsult Report was commissioned the clear indication was that the Government would abide by its conclusions. In announcing the report in November 2015, Minister Winston Jordan said that, “Norway seems keen to finance an independent review to, once and for all, pronounce on the viability of the project.”
Guyana’s economy is declining. The growth rate fell this year and the projection for next year is modest. This means that the income of the Government has declined significantly and so has its ability to spend. Public expenditure is one of the two main props that keeps the economy ticking over and sustains employment, income and services. The othe is private investment.
In making decisions on the budget, the Government found itself between a rock and a hard place. It had to decide whether to reduce spending in proportion to its reduced income or sustain the same or a similar level of public spending as previously by raising funds by way of taxation and borrowing. It chose the latter course by imposing or increasing taxes on individuals and businesses. It has also increased the amount that it will borrow next year, eliminating any prospect of a decline in interest rates.
As China celebrates its National Day, it is dealing with complicated challenges on multiple fronts. Much has been written by experts who have spent lifetimes studying China and its relations with the rest of the world so that anything that comes out of our little corner of the world is very much a subject of our own limited perspectives. The defining background, of course, is China’s development into a great economic and military power in the past thirty years. For Guyana, our relations with China began in 1972 when diplomatic relations were established. Even though courageous at the time, Guyana followed the United States and did not anticipate US hostility to its move. The PPP had relations with the Chinese Communist Party long before as fraternal parties, This was disrupted during the period of the dispute between the Soviet Union and China, but resumed later.
President Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ was seen as a thinly disguised attempt to ‘contain’ the growing military power of China, which the US presumably felt would later be a threat to its allies in the region, including Japan and South Korea. While controversy has existed for a long time about China’s claims to ownership of islands claimed by other countries, including Japan, in the South China seas, the heightening of tensions by increasing US military activities, is an integral part of the efforts of the West to ‘contain’ China. The latter’s interest in retaining influence or control over the South China seas is to protect its trade routes and its security.
It appears as if the Georgetown City Council has already decided in principle to install parking meters in Georgetown for the purpose of creating an additional source of revenue. The streets in which the meters are to be installed are Avenue of the Republic, Regent Street, Robb Street, Camp Street, Main Street, Brickdam, Water Street, America Street and Church Street. This decision should be reconsidered.
Coming so soon after the elections, the decision to install parking meters was clearly on APNU+AFC’s agenda prior to the elections. During the elections, APNU+AFC contestants had ample opportunity to inform the residents of Georgetown that parking meters were on the agenda but they kept this plot a secret for obvious reasons.