AT the dawn of 2020, two precious words – Sweet Oil – will be on the lips of every patriotic Guyanese. It will be Guyana’s magic moment of First Oil. It will be the beginning of a promising rags-to-riches epic – a composite of Cinderella and the pauper-to-prince, surreal, fairytales.
Amidst rising expectations that Guyana will soon lead regional economic growth, and from press disclosures yesterday, ExxonMobil still clings to hope for its first oil production from its Liza-One deposits this December month-end.
According to The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Guyana’s growth rate is projected at 85.6 per cent next year, as compared to 4.5 per cent at the end of 2019.
Elsewhere, projections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the giant, trillion-dollar stock broker, Nasdaq, have placed Guyana at the top of the five fastest growing economies in the world. The other countries are Ethiopia, Rwanda, Bangladesh and India.
GUYANA AT THE TOP
These disclosures should give us reasons to feel good about ourselves, that Guyana is clawing herself back to the top, when she was once glorified as the “breadbasket of the Caribbean”.
The good news reverberate in my heart like the nostalgic lyrics of Ben E. King and the Drifters when they sung about “this magic moment”, being “so different and so new”, and “sweeter than wine”. Like every humble Guyanese in the context of the oil era, we hope even unrealistically so, that it could last forever, “till the end of time…”
There is nothing wrong for us to feel this way, to have our moment of upliftment, even pride. Our Guyanese people are already basking over the prospects of the better life. They are caught up in a shopping frenzy to receive the good news of first oil with the brightest Christmas ever. This time around, they determined that no treacherous political Grinch should steal Christmas from them. First oil should come like our Guyana joy which we gladly share with the world.
But already the naysayers are busy at work. They are busy painting a doomsday picture that the foreign oil producers will steal all of our new wealth. They publish daily anonymous advertisements. The cowardly publishers, obviously with deep, money-lined pockets, do not reveal their crooked identities.
One such fear-mongering “paid advertisement” in yesterday’s Kaieteur News read, inter alia:
Do you know what happens when private companies strike oil in developing countries like Guyana?… them busy shipping away all yoh oil wealth from right under your nose…leaving many countries dirt poor and billions in debt after the oil companies leave.
This is the kind of sleaze that our Guyanese people, who hope for betterment, have to cope with from those pessimists. They would rather, out of an insane obsession or naked spite, that we leave our projected six billion barrels of oil, right there at the bottom of our sea.
Our government has erected fences to protect our oil wealth. We have set up a Natural Resources Fund (NRF) under an Act of Parliament “to manage the natural resource wealth of Guyana for the present and future benefit of the people” and “for the sustainable development of the country”.
But elements from the doomsday gang are clawing at the fund, hoping to tear it apart, or pull it down, even before the first dollar from oil is deposited into it.
They are opposed to audits of oil revenues being done by the competent state authority – Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). Out of a perfidious self-interest they are demanding that these audits should be farmed out to private entities.
Like a new breed, the Y2K-20, they are spinning similar fears as in 2000 when doomsday prophets spun the yard that the world would come to an end at the dawn of the new century.
I recall in 2000 how widespread was the fear that the computer system would crash, the power grid would shut down, and there would an electronic meltdown. Business would come to a halt, traffic will be chaotic, trains will go berserk, etc.
Otherwise intelligent people then believed in the big bluff. While visiting my old Guyana-born friend, Joe, in the US Midwest, he showed me the expensive stove that he had installed in his basement. He had stalks of wood both inside the basement and outside in the yard. He was preparing for the Y2K implosion and, for him, a near-real crash of the electric grid. He stacked up an entire expanded cupboard, packed with canned foods, and dried meats.
I can understand when fears spring from lack of information, which was the situation many years ago, during my childhood. At sunset, I stood at the side of my mother who had squatted before a basket of fresh fish on the bridge to our house at Whim Village on the Corentyne. The revered, aged village fish-vendor, Kabollay, approached us. She was hysterical. With tears trickling down her face, she pointed towards some dark lines in the western sky. There were flashes of lights beyond the dark lines.
“De world coming to end, Chunoo,” she said to Ma. “Kalyug coming, Chunoo!”
The dark lines turned out to be new telephone wires that were installed earlier that day from the public road to the Whim post office and the police station. It was the first time that I too was seeing the wires that were strapped to tall poles. And the frightful, flashing lights emanated from contraptions at the Coney Island circus some distance away in Canje or New Amsterdam.
I survived Kabollay’s Kalyug, and the Y2K fraud. I am just too old now to believe this new yarn that with oil wealth, Guyana will go down the dark hole of eternal damnation and perdition.
As I write I am singing in my mind, “this Magic Moment” and, like all right-minded Guyanese, I will not be bothered by these doomsday ghouls. According to the Oxford Dictionary, they are persons morbidly interested in disaster and death, and would rob graves and feed on dead bodies if ever they should return to power.
We have learned over these past years since 2015, when the APNU+AFC Coalition Government came to office, that we could quickly distance ourselves from the dreaded past when we experienced the politics of broken promises, corruption and failures. We have collectively said, “no more”. We have moved forward in these four plus years.
GUYANA – STABLE AND PEACEFUL
Elsewhere, there is turmoil. The mighty President Trump has been cited for two counts of abuse of power, and will face formal impeachment charges. Former Bolivian President, Eva Morales, who was first granted asylum in Mexico, has been received as a political refugee in Argentina. He too faces claims that he had abused power. In Chile, the President is accused with abuse of power in using excessive force against citizens. And in the UK, the Labour Party suffered its worst defeat ever at the December 12 polls at the hands of Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. They say that Labour was rejected because it had lost touch with the working people.
Here in Guyana, those who are beating the dead drum of desperation over our impending new status as an oil economy, and are sowing hopelessness in our future, are also out of touch with the hitherto barefooted man and woman, who want and deserve the better life.
Our country is stable and peaceful. And President David Granger stands tall as a defender of the Rule of Law, and is eminently re-electable.