Citing reduced demand for oil due to the coronavirus and a slump in international prices, the United Kingdom (UK)-based non-governmental organisation, Global Witness, has withdrawn its report titled Signed Away that had estimated that Guyana would lose at least US$55 billion from the oil deal with ExxonMobil.
“Moreover, since publication, oil prices have dropped by more than a third. As COVID-19 continues to depress demand for fossil fuels and as countries implement policies to restrict the use of fossil fuels in order to tackle climate change, the prospects for sustainable income generation from new oil projects are increasingly questionable.
These factors led us to overestimate the potential economic benefit of oil extraction. Based on feedback from civil society representatives in Guyana, we recognise that our report has made it harder for them to argue the case for cessation of oil production in their country,” Global Witness said in a statement.
But former Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman contended that the report had been released back in February 2020 to influence the outcome of the March 2, 2020 general elections and now Global Witness says the document is useless. “It is now established, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Global Witness allowed itself to be used to further political and economic interests prior to Guyana’s 2020 elections,” said Mr. Trotman who is also Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), the second largest party in the opposition coalition.
He accused Global Witness of being economic hitmen who interfered in Guyana’s internal politics in clear violation of sovereignty, decency, fairness and balance. Mr. Trotman contended that the release of the report one month before Guyana’s general and regional elections “was neither coincidental nor without deliberate purpose.”
“Now that the abominable, dirty deed is done, Global Witness finds it convenient to withdraw the report, not in part, but entirely and clumsily use the fig leaf of environmental causes. This is shameful and repugnant and constitutes subversive political interference in the affairs of a sovereign state’s electoral process in seeking to influence the outcome of an election,” said Mr. Trotman.
Recalling that the report had been severely critical of the agreement between Guyana government and ExxonMobil and its partners, of him specifically, several of his Cabinet colleagues and former President David Granger, Mr. Trotman restated that he was ready for a full probe.
“I believe also that an excuse is being made to avoid an investigation, which I agreed with. The investigation should proceed in earnest and will receive my full and unequivocal support,” he said.
Global Witness sought to justify its decision to withdraw the Signed Awayreport, saying that that document had focused on how much revenue Guyana could obtain from oil if the government negotiated a fairer deal with oil major Exxon. “Our revenue analysis assumed that Paris Agreement climate commitments would not be implemented – leading to an overestimation of the amount of oil Guyana would likely produce and the value of that oil,” the organisation said. Further, Global Witness said its new organisational strategy it has rolled out this year does not allow it to accept that scenario because greenhouse gases have to fall by half over the next decade, for the sake of the planet and all of us living on it.
Global Witness said its decision to withdraw Signed Away is not an endorsement of the way Exxon or Guyanese officials negotiated the oil licences awarded to the company. “We stand by the integrity of the evidence we have presented. We also stand by the fiscal model produced by OpenOil that was commissioned by Global Witness. Expert, transparent, and instructive, OpenOil’s work and its fiscal model are standard-setting.”
The international NGO said it strongly supported the inspiring investigations and campaigning that so many uyanese reporters, campaigners, and experts have undertaken in recent years to increase accountability around the deals between Guyana’s government and Exxon and other oil companies. Global Witness said, “it is this work that will hold the powerful to account and Guyanese people should be proud to have such relentless advocates working for them. “