AS we approach the close of the year, it is worth the while to reflect on what the next few years could look like for Guyana as we prepare to join the few countries that have been fortunate to discover oil and use it as the path to economic development.

From all indications, the immediate future could be a transformative period for our country. Already, many Guyanese are speculating that Guyana could be entering a period when we could well unlock the gates to the collective prosperity to which all ex-colonial countries aspire. It is indeed an overwhelming feeling for a country that is among the poorest in the Americas.


But, as we have seen from the debates, the much-anticipated economic prosperity would not wipe away our decades of contentious politics, nor would it immediately solve our economic woes. To the contrary, one could conclude that the coming of oil would exacerbate our divisive politics and that could have a negative impact on our capacity to successfully use the oil revenues to effect economic transformation. In this regard, the opposition should rethink its strategy of relentless negativity. One gets the impression that most of the time, the opposition is more concerned with scoring political points rather than helping to improve the situation.


Over the last year, there has been no shortage of advice from local and international experts on how to avoid the pitfalls that accompany oil discovery. Indeed, much of that advice comes against the backdrop of the vulnerability of our political economy and the perceived track record of the oil companies that are poised to dominate the industry. This is understandable, given the experiences of countries and the sense of nationalism that accompanies oil discovery—the old debate about the extent to which countries benefit from their resources. Suffice it to say that Guyana has, in the past, not satisfactorily negotiated the best deals for itself.


But even as we make that observation, we must strive for cooperation and consensus rather than confrontation with foreign investors. In this regard, we must caution against overreaction against Exxon Mobil. While we must be forever vigilant, such vigilance should be balanced and constructive. Government, over the past few years, has been very transparent about the activities in the sector. This was demonstrated after initially deciding not to publicly release details of the contract with Exxon Mobil, the government changed course and has released all other contracts. As it explained, notwithstanding its concerns about confidentiality clauses, the ultimate decision was guided by its commitment to transparency.


As we have editorialised before, no Anglophone Caribbean government, in recent decades, has come under as much scrutiny during its first term in office as our current APNU+AFC coalition government. It is customary for new governments to be allowed the proverbial honeymoon period, with the understanding that that time represents a transition from the old to the new. However, this government has not had that luxury. It has been in office for just over four years, but if one were to judge from the criticisms of the opposition PPP and the commentaries in the media, it seems more like three terms. The big consequence is that the government has not had the space needed to settle into its own mode of operation. It has had to simultaneously try to put its own stamp on the governmental process and defend itself against an avalanche of criticisms, including some glaringly unjustified ones.

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The PPP has been the most uncooperative and uncomplimentary opposition. It has gone as far as rejecting national unity talks. Instead, it pontificates on every issue in a manner that suggests its objective is criticism simply for the sake of doing so. What is even more nauseating is that it barefacedly seeks to hold this government responsible for failures which the PPP bequeathed to it.


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