‒ disjointed leadership blunders a de facto referendum come 2020 ‒ Ministerial collusion with oil companies become worrying – Ramsaroop
is definitely lack of an integrated approach based on some plan or vision for the nation. Leadership is surely lacking and this is being made patently obvious as is evidenced in the many (leadership) blunders of the coalition administration in recent weeks.
Dr. Peter Ramsaroop, Economic Advisor to the Opposition Leader and author of “Surfing the Leadership Wave” recently explored some of the blunders of the administration this past week and lashed out at the decision making process of the President and his Cabinet.
Dr. Ramsaroop concedes that while there is learning curve for any new administration in office, more so one that has never held the reins of government before, suggests that after two plus years in office it is clear that the President and his Cabinet Council of Ministers are not only disjointed in their decision making for their various portfolios, but lack basic leadership skills.
Before j umping i nto some of the worrying decisions taken or have failed to be taken by the administration, Dr. Ramsaroop questioned whether in face of the many challenges facing his already bloated government , President David Granger can’t seem to fire anybody.
“Well except for those with the institutional knowledge and competent per- formances, but would have served in technical and not elected positions under the previous administration, is President Granger fit and proper to lead this nation? I do not believe so,” Ramsaroop said.
Dr Ramsaroop suggests that perhaps his reasoning can be gleaned by a recent excursion funded by the leading player in the game (right now) in terms of exploration and development - Exxon Mobil.
“Imagine four Ministers travelling to Exxon without a single technical or business person. What would they learn from Exxon HQ.”
The author and economic advisor stated that: “it’s what we call a boondoggle trip for other fun things and maybe some networking for the future.”
According to Dr. Ramsaroop, Exxon Mobil, with its deep, deep pockets is notorious across this globe for its predatory practices, especially when it comes to countries with little to no experience in the industry.
He recalled that only recently that company was slapped with a US$74B fine by the courts in Chad, an African nation that it had been drilling for just about 15 years. It was found guilty of underpaying royalties to that country.
International experts have suggested that given the company’s track record, that country will never be paid by the company.
Dr Ramsaroop noted that Guyanese are already up in arms over the lack of transparency over the contract and licence issued to that government.
“We have heard of 2% royalties off the top…off the top of what?” Dr Ramsaroop questioned.
“Which Guyanese expertise of technicians will verify what Exxon actually took out of our Exclusive Economic Zone…We are told that we will share 50 per cent of the profits, but not before Exxon and its partners recover their investment.”
Ramsaroop also said the world is changing at a rapid rate when it comes to the usage of oil versus other cleaner sources. 2020 can be a whole different approach.
“Why are we not investing in the new seven industries the PPP had proposed in their 2015 Manifesto,” he asked.
Dr Ramsaroop also questioned how Guyanese will ever really know what was invested and whether costs were not inflated among other nefarious practices.
“Guyanese could in fact find themselves in a situation where a profit is not declared for years to come, meaning we will be getting 2% of whatever Exxon tells us they recovered all while they ‘recover their investment.”
“Exxon is a company in the business of making money in an industry where the prices are not only volatile, but where there is increasing competition from renewable and cleaner sources of energy such as hydropower, solar and ocean currents to name a few,” he noted.
He said in light of this, “why would politicians with literally no experience in this field take such a trip, funded by the very company…“Why would Exxon host just the government, is there collusion?”
One vocal local commentator had some years ago written that there is nothing like ‘free chowmein,’ and as such Dr Ramsaroop queried as to why Granger’s Ministers would believe that they must not safeguard themselves against the pitfalls of this industry.
There has been lots of talk about learning the lessons of others in avoiding the Dutch Disease, a situation that obtains where a nation’s oil resources are squandered through corrupt and ill conceived practices, but there is little to no talk about the dangers of being in bed with such super companies.
Dr Ramsaroop stated that Guyana need not look further t han Venezuela where its ally and friend, the late Hugo Chavez, was forced to take affirmative action against that company.
“A final thought on this sector, Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s boss up until months ago left to go take over as Secretary of State of the US and immediately set about dismantling the transparency laws for companies such as Exxon operating in Guyana’s waters.”
According to Dr Ramsaroop, however, companies such as Exxon can bring any deal and any amount of promises to the Guyanese people, but at the end of the day it is what the Guyanese leaders agree to sign on to, it is what the Guyanese leaders agree to in binding contracts.
Lambasting the lack of leadership on the part of the administration, Dr. Ramsaroop said, “Granger’s skills as simply a historian versus the Economist of a Bharrat Jagdeo stands out like a sore thumb. There is no comparison. He seems lost.”
In spite of all of the questions, Ramsaroop believes that the Exxon partnership, if done right could be an asset over the decades to come.
But even so, the President is not really expected to be a master in the field of every arena he governs, hence the employ of competent people in Government agencies - perhaps the most critical being the Ministry of Finance and the inconsisten- cies of Winston Jordan are worrying to say the least, according to the advisor.
“After 27 months at the helm of this important Ministry, which incidentally will be in charge of the sovereign wealth fund – Minister Jordan still can’t seem to get it right and instead blames the PPP at every turn, although he inherited a growing economy with monies on hand.”
Dr Ramsaroop has since opined that the future of this nation is too important to be left in the hands of incompetence.
“The previous administration worked for many l ong years to t ake t he country to a place where it was elevated from that of a Heavily Indebted Poor Country to one where we enjoy a more middle class status.”
As such, he opines that with oil on the horizon, the stakes are even higher and that Guyanese need to take stock of themselves and their country and decide on its future.
He is of the opinion that the year 2020 marks another turning point in the history of this country, with the start of the production of oil and with possibly its most important General Elections in history.
The nation, he said, was sold a pipe dream in 2015 and despite the warnings by the leadership of the PPP, there was a vote for a change.
The coalition government was declared the winners, albeit by a slim margin and this time around there is a track record to judge both sides of the coins, he noted.
“Proven leadership and growth under a PPP Government or incessant cronyism, collusion, discrimination and a lack of basic leadership under a PNC led regime.
“We have an administration bringing laws into place that lack common decency and in fact collides with the constitution.
We have a people crying out for a living wage, unions that are largely ignored in their plea for collective bargaining and a bloated Government with ministers being shifted around every few months even as they get to keep their super salaries.”
According to Dr Ramsaroop, it is time for change indeed, but this is not the change any Guyanese bargained for, including supporters of the current administration – just ask the Amerindians.
He has since concluded that a President without a vision, just living in a nice house with his only accomplishment being the fixing up his house and putting solar panels is not what any citizen expects of their president.