Foreign experts support viewpoints expressed by patriots

first_imgDear Editor,I wonder if Guyana would wake up and smell the coffee now that two prominent international experts on political risks have joined me and other patriots in warning that Guyana’s oil bonanza could cause corruption in high places to skyrocket and uproot democracy, independence, and all the principles and values we hold dear.This week, news broke that Thiago de Aragao, Director of the Latin American Political Risk Analysis, is urging the Government of Guyana to strengthen systems governing the electoral process, taxation and regulation, because if they are not up to standard, Guyana’s democracy can end up being “choked by oil and gas money”.Referring to petroleum investors’ intentions, Aragao warned: “The business plan is to burn it all”; and to do so, investors will seek to exert influence in every place they can. This echoed my warning early this year that we must guard against this very same thing.In my letter to the media, published in February 2018, I wrote: “ExxonMobil…put their interests first. It is simply good business sense for them to use all their bargaining power to ensure that the interests of their shareholders and directors come first, and their opportunities for expansion and investment are protected”.Aragao also warned: “There must be a clear set of rules for taxation in the oil and gas industry, as well as environmental regulation. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for abuse, and for oil money to rule and lead the way”. I recall that I also warned about ‘hungry-belly’ officials being sucked into corruption by investors.In a letter published in March 2018, I referred to the proposed Sovereign Wealth Fund to manage Guyana’s oil monies, and warned that it “will definitely fatten the eyes of every corrupt politician and official. Even those who are not yet corrupt will be exposed to enormous temptation…many would be unable to resist”.I read in a separate news report that another expert, Executive Director of Agency for Security, Energy and the Environment (ASEA) of Mexico, Carlos De Regules, called for a strong, independent regulatory body to monitor the activities of investors, and guarantee environmental protection of Guyana.He noted that such an environmental body cannot do its job effectively unless it is independent and free from any instance of political interference, and he also commented: “They should also be financially independent, so they can plan for the long term, and have the resources to do so”.This calls to mind a warning in my letter in March about the Sovereign Wealth Fund: “We have to put powerful transparency and accountability mechanisms in place to protect the Sovereign Wealth Fund (to manage oil revenue) from being subject to wrongdoing and poor investments”.Like De Regules, I recognise that political interference would stifle national development. That is why I wrote to the media in March, urging citizens to join me in calling on Government to depoliticize all negotiations involving Guyana’s oil monies, and put negotiation in the hands of an independent, bipartisan body approved by the citizens.I do not point out these similarities to push myself forward for praise and glory, because I seek praise from God, not Man. Instead, I want to show that Guyanese can sit down right here at home and make rational assessments of national development issues that are on par with the views of international experts.Let me make it clear also that when I call for checks and balances to be put in place to restrain investors, it does not mean I am against foreign investment. As a committed patriot, I am all for investment and progress, but I realise that Guyana is outgunned by big companies in key areas, so we have to be cautious.The fact is that developing countries like Guyana simply do not have the background or experience in international financial dealings to negotiate on a level platform with big multinational corporations.In a nutshell: Guyana’s oil revenue must be put under the supervision and scrutiny of a multi-stakeholder board comprising of independent professionals drawn from civic society. It can include accomplished professionals, religious bodies, the Private Sector Commission, the Chamber of Commerce; and officials from CARICOM or elsewhere, provided they are competent and free from political interference.A board such as this would more effectively serve as a watchdog against corruption by those in power. This board must be professionally managed according to transparent policies, and the roles and responsibilities of the board must be clearly defined and made public. There must be clear rules governing the acquisition and use of oil revenues, and the board must apply these scrupulously and fairly.There must also be clear and harsh penalties for wrongdoing, and a suitable time frame for prosecution. I advocate life imprisonment or death for pilfering our oil money, although I know the bleeding hearts among us would disagree.Finally, I have written before, and I write again, that such a board, or any group of persons who are the people’s caretakers of Guyana’s oil revenue, must be fully accountable to Parliament, auditors and the media; and the details of this accountability must be clearly defined and made public.Guyana has a lot of foreign-minded people, so maybe more persons would heed these warnings because they come from foreign experts who have basically used elegant, technical terms to make exactly the same points that I and other local observers have been making for a long time now.Sincerely,Roshan Khan Snr.last_img

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