..says details will be released in ‘due course’
In light of heavy criticisms being levied against the Coalition government over its apparent reluctance to release details of its contract arrangements with United States oil-giant ExxonMobil, Prime Minister (currently acting President) Moses Nagamootoo has rushed to his Administrations defence, saying that it has been as accountable and transparent as possible in the circumstances.
Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI) on Wednesday called on the Coalition Government to publish, in the name of accountability and transparency, the contract drafts and make the negotiations accountable to Parliament that it has with all oil companies, including ExxonMobil.
Apart from TIGI, the Parliamentary Opposition and other national stakeholders have made calls for the contract information to be released in the interest of transparency and open governance.
Moreover, Opposition Leader, Dr Bharat Jagdeo, during a press briefing on Thursday reiterated his Party’s position that the contract with ExxonMobil must be released.
However, Prime Minister Nagamootoo pointed out that government is committed to having a transparent and accountable oil and gas sector and have even forged a multi-stakeholder partnership with the Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GEITI) in order to make all transactions as transparent, as well as maintain an accountable base for the emerging industry as it progresses.
But in the same breath, he was quick to outline that there are some transactions and some situations where the question of full disclosure cannot be addressed immediately.
“Not that you are turning your back on transparency and accountability but we have a situation right now with Venezuela and we’ve entered into that last six months of a very delicate process involving the United Nations. So we have to, in this last six months, decide if there is no resolution by negotiation that the matter will go to the International Court of Justice,” he stated.
According to the Prime Minister, while the Guyana’s position on the border controversy issue is widely known, that is, for the matter to be settled once and for all juridically, Government has to be cautious in its handling of oil-related issues so as to prevent any jeopardising of the prospects that the country enjoys in terms of it resources in oil and gas.
Nevertheless, he pointed out that his Administration has been cautiously sharing certain details regarding its arrangements with the US oil-giant such as the two per cent royalty and the 50-50 production partnership agreement.
In the same breath, however, he posited that the prospect is continuing with new wells being discovered and new quantities being determined and as such, Government needs to be considerate of world trend when proceeding with the emerging sector.
“We’re trying to give information without making the process of oil and gas a secret… (But) you have to look at these things and be able to determine whether you release the contract now or you wait until we start producing and determine what information and how to convey the information into the body of politics,” he noted.
Prime Minister Nagamootoo further posited that, “we are responsive to Parliament, you have an Economic Services Commission, so that we can be able to bring forth some aspects of arrangements without endangering our national interests or without undermining our sovereignty. So it’s a very delicate issue and while I understand, there are organisations calling to release the contract, the matter is being addressed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the disclosures will be made in due course.”
Extraction from Exxon’s offshore Liza field locally is expected to commence in 2020, at an initial rate of 100,000 barrels of crude per day in the first phase.
The offshore discovery in Guyana is estimated to have around two billion barrels of high-quality oil.