Guyana’s post-election chaos could threaten oil bonanza – Washington-based experts

0
David E. Lewis (left) Anthony T. Bryan

Guyana’s post-election impasse and the level of instability it has generated could threaten the long-awaited oil windfall, as many crucial projects are still awaiting approval – which could only happen after the dragged-out electoral process is concluded and a democratic government is sworn in.

This is according to the David E. Lewis, Vice President of Manchester Trade Ltd., an international business advisory firm in Washington, D.C.; and Anthony T. Bryan, a Senior Associate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C..

In an opinion piece published recently by Caribbean News Global, the two respected international experts reminded that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the IMF had projected that Guyana might be the only country in the Americas to experience any economic growth this year, let alone the double-digit bonanza expected by experts.

According to the IMF, Guyana is ideally positioned to ride a wave of oil development, with the economy likely to expand 86 percent compared to 4.4 percent in 2019.

ExxonMobil’s record number of discoveries offshore Guyana has placed the country at the top of the list for prospective offshore regions in the world.

Lewis and Bryan explain that with two recent discoveries in neighboring Suriname, the Guyana Suriname Basin (GSB) is now one of the most promising basins in the world. Even as the recent oil price collapse forced the global oil companies to curtail spending and curb production in many countries, development plans for the major oil discoveries in Guyana and Suriname remain mostly unchanged.

According to the experts, all of this could be threatened if the current political impasse, following the March 2, polls, is not resolved soon.

“Amidst the chaos, Guyana could face serious setbacks, risking previous economic projections and potentially reducing off a recent flood of investments into Guyana. Even as oil wealth starts to flow into government accounts, key policies and projects remain unfinished and the country has not yet made firm decisions about how to spend the oil wealth,” they said.

They added that as many as 34 firms including the largest trading houses and oil majors are now competing to market Guyana’s share of the oil cargoes.

“Approvals for the next stage of Guyana’s oil development have also been delayed for months by the political uncertainty and regulators seem reluctant to act without knowing who might be in charge when the dust settles. Keeping development moving, unfortunately, seems to have become one more political playing card in an already chaotic situation.”

According to the Lewis and Bryan, these delays are likely to be costly. They noted that Guyana has already earned close to US $100 million since production started earlier this year, with billions more on the horizon if development proceeds as planned. “That’s revenue the government will desperately need to jumpstart the post-COVID recovery,” they noted.

According to the authors, political chaos is inevitably corrosive to a country’s economic goals. “But insulating Guyana’s burgeoning oil industry from politics would go a long way towards making sure that the country becomes a poster child for development, not a cautionary tale.”

It has now been over four months since the elections were held and credible winner is yet to be declared. Even though the voting process was endorsed by all stakeholders as being credible, it was the tabulation of the results for District Four which sparked much controversy, leading to a national recount.

Even after the CARICOM-supervised national recount was conducted and confirmed that the Opposition Peoples Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/) has won the polls by over 15,000 votes, the incumbent A Partnership For National Unity/ Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) is refusing to accept the results and give up the reigns of power.

The Coalition continues to make allegations of voter fraud, even though it claimed victory on this same basis.

On Wednesday the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) handed down clear, definitive decisions which now paves the way for the way for the Guyana Elections Commission to move ahead with its final declaration. The CEO has once again been instructed by GECOM to present a new elections report by 14:00h today, using the results from the national recount.

Major powers have threatened sanctions against individuals who attempt to prevent the duly elected government being installed.