Govt to release ExxonMobil contract this month

first_imgIn what can be considered as bowing to public pressure after months of mounting concerns and speculation, the coalition Government has finally announced that it would be releasing the contract with US oil giant ExxonMobil this month.This was revealed by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon at the post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday.According to Harmon, the issue was discussed at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting during which an agreement was made to have the crucial document released within the next month.“The Exxon contract with the Government of Guyana would be made public in the month of December and, that is, the contract with all its terms and conditions,” he said.While the State Minister did not mention a specific date when the document would be made available for public scrutiny, he did note, however, that this decision was made after Cabinet’s “fulsome discussion” on the matter and after taking into consideration the many public calls.“We’ve taken all of the issues into consideration and we also recognised that there is a need expressed by our population for greater inclusiveness, for more information to be provided and we take those into consideration as well,” he said.The Minister continued that, “…we listen to the people and we are not deaf to the concerns that have been expressed by various sections of our community, and we believe that it is important that we take the public into our confidence with respect to not only this contract but other contracts which might affect our dealings with other companies in relation to the natural resources – the national patrimony.”Over recent months, several key stakeholders and civil society bodies have been pressuring Government to release details of the new contract signed with the US oil giant.Both Government and ExxonMobil had noted various concerns for keeping the document confidential.In the interest of Guyana: one of the reasons Government had given for the non-disclosure of the contract was the ongoing border controversy with neighbouring Venezuela. Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman had stated back in March that in the event of the controversy not being settled via the current Good Officer process, then the issue would be taken before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and as such, Guyana needs to be cautious about the information it puts out.However, when asked about the implications that the impending contract release would have on the border controversy mediation process, Harmon told media operatives that this issue would be dealt with at the appropriate time.During a speech earlier this year, Trotman had stated that there was no need for Guyana to be making full disclosures about its contract with ExxonMobil, saying “full disclosure will not be to the national benefit or interest”.“We have no reason to go right now and expose all our business to the world when we don’t even have the resources actually in hand. Let’s get things in our hand, then we can go out and shout what we have,” the Natural Resources Minister had said in March when he revealed that Guyana was to receive two per cent royalty on gross earnings and 50 per cent of the profits of the oil proceeds when production starts in 2020.Meanwhile, when contacted, ExxonMobil Guyana’s Public and Government Affairs Senior Director, Kimberly Brasington could not say specifically whether the company was informed beforehand of Government’s intention to release the contract.In an invited comment following Government’s announcement, Brasington told Guyana Times : “ExxonMobil supports transparency initiatives wherever we operate around the world. We look forward to discussions with our partners and the Government with regard to Guyana.”Among those calling for the release of the contract between Government and ExxonMobil were the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and its leader, former President Bharrat Jagdeo, who, on many occasions, had called out the coalition regime for backpedalling on reasons given for not disclosing the document.Other bodies such as Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) and the Working People’s Alliance – one of the parties that make up the majority party in the coalition Government, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) – has also made calls for the contract to be made public.last_img