LETTER: It is up to Guyanese to decide the life they want at 2020 polls

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Dear Editor,

The Granger Administration initiated hostilities with the Private Sector immediately upon assumption of office in 2015, it is now 2019 and the local Private Sector Commission has been usurped as the representatives of business in Guyana. This position is now held by a group of Trinidadian companies, who have been ably assisted in their takeover by Granger’s cabal.

Oil in commercial quantity was announced days after the Granger Administration was sworn in – any competent Administration would have immediately commenced working on ways to ensure maximum benefit accrued locally from this new resource. Granger did not, the focus of the first year was the Independence Jubilee celebrations in 2016. While Granger was focused on making merry, the companies that feed off of oil globally made their way onto our shores unimpeded, unheralded and under the cover of laws that offer no protection to Guyanese. Granger saw no danger and Schlumberger, Halliburton et al set up operations without so much as a ‘by your leave’.

Editor, I understand Guyana giving ExxonMobil all kinds of breaks, they took a chance and signed a deal in 1999 with President Janet Jagan to explore our deepwater zone for oil and they persevered after various costly setbacks. One should remember Shell walked away from the joint venture in the Stabroek Block in 2014. However, these oilfield service companies, worth billions, have been given incredibly generous tax breaks and other concessions.

In July 2019, well into its period of illegality (having failed to hold election by March 21, 2019,) Granger sent a contingent of Ministers to Trinidad on an ‘Investment outreach’ where they “engaged with over 200 business magnates and investors, the Guyanese team detailed investment opportunities in Guyana and outlined Guyana’s Green State Development Strategy policy while extending a welcome to regional investors to Guyana”.

No Guyanese businesses were invited to participate in this initiative. Events since this ‘outreach’ have led me to believe that there may have been the biggest ‘sellout’ of a country’s patrimony in the history of nations. Is the pending sale of the GNSC wharf to a Trinidadian company a harbinger of things to come? Has anyone told the Trinis of SARA? “Who got money got bargain” may not hold true in a new dispensation.

On October 16, 2019, the Energy Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago hosted A “Guyana Safety Forum” at the National Conference Centre and neglected to invite any Guyanese business service organisations. The local business bodies were insulted by the complete shut out from the event, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), The Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) all made condemnatory statements to that effect following the event.

Present were the Kenson Group of Companies, a consortium of Trinidadian oil and gas companies; First Citizens Bank, a Trinidadian financial institution; Caribbean Tower Cranes Limited, Caribbean Safety Products Limited; HHSL Safety Systems Limited; the Hummingbird Group; IWES Limited; Oshes Limited; ExxonMobil; STOW; Saipem; OPITO and the Houston Area Safety Council.

None of these companies or organisations is Guyanese owned. Guyana was represented by the Ministry of Social Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), TVET Guyana, and the National Advisory Committee on Safety and Health. Not a single Guyanese-owned or operated business was present. Guyanese must ask themselves whose interest this ‘foreign’ policy serves.

Guyanese should also beware of any explanations by Granger’s defenders that talk of adherence to the Treaty of Chaguaramas and “international free trade agreements”. Treaties are mere guides, for example, Guyanese cannot sell eddoes to Trinidad, or even trans-ship honey to other destinations, is the Trinidad Government observing the letter of the Treaty? Or are they acting in the best interests of their citizens? Trade deals are renegotiated all the time, as circumstances change, for example, a patriotic stance by President Trump forced renegotiation of NAFTA to get a better deal for Americans.

David Granger professes not to understand clear provisions of Articles in our Constitution that “require no gloss” but seems to revel in the misshapen belief that Guyana must observe every iota of the Treaty to the detriment of locally-owned businesses. Is it that Granger places the terms of the Treaty over the interests of the people of Guyana or is it that he (Granger) and his cabal are better served by the ‘investments’ made during the ‘outreach’?

Guyanese are faced with a stark choice at the polls in 2020 – to support local businesses and content, or live in the future as ‘second-class’ citizens in our dear land of Guyana.

Respectfully,

Robin Singh