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OPINION: Exxon has Guyana on ropes, almost down and definitely out

Last Updated on Saturday, 10 June 2023, 10:14 by Writer

By GHK Lall

Everywhere that Guyanese turn, there is some level of thick darkness. No, it is not the circle of the clock, but of impenetrable manmade secrecies. Some are of foreign origins, some are local, and some from both sources contribute to the consequences that result from such industrial-political collaborations. I gaze at this figure for depreciation and amortization (D&A) claimed by Exxon, and it stands at the double whopper size of $347 billion. It is an abundance of taxes avoided, and a boon to profits. All legal, of course, as I hasten to reassure fellow citizens. It is the alleged crime that concerns me. The one where the audit of the asset register, the base for that $347 billion whopper of a deduction, has to be such a fiercely guarded secret, and one to be kept out of the sight and mind of Guyanese.

Drs. Ali and Jagdeo may have scant interest in what the audit of that asset register reports, or in sharing it with citizens. 

I am interested, and so also are countless Guyanese. There is special interest in what is included, and what could be traceable as part of Exxon’s Guyana operations. 

I have even more interest in what Exxon may have classified as “intangible assets”, and how this most sophisticated of oil companies has arrived at how much they should be valued. Because my mind is restless, I proceed deeper: what is the valuation placed on Exxon’s contract by Exxon with Guyana? We must know, be privy to, what the audit reports, in all of its elemental aspects, as cleanly documented, freely disclosed. Guyanese must know. Another tack may be more direct: we own this oil, don’t we?

Total assets of $2.3 trillion offer a lot of room and much scope for, shall I say, slick maneuvers on the part of Exxon. Guyanese do well to recall that oil companies have a history of messing with geography. That is, in Christopher Columbus fashion, expenses end up in the wrong place. Drift occurs, just like Cristobal Colon did. Look at what turned out to be the fate of the Aztecs and Incas from his pioneering effort. I shiver for my fellow Guyanese. I would like to say a kind word to Drs. Ali and Jagdeo for being so cooperative with this corporate sorcery, with so much held back, but that will have to come on another day. It was His Excellency Ali who said that transparency doesn’t mean that there is no confidentiality. I can see that other President, Supreme Commander Alistair Routledge grinning from ear to ear, and hear him exclaiming something along the lines of ‘that’s my boy, those two are our guys.’

So, the audit of the asset register is a secret. So other audit reports are still a secret, other than for spurts and drips. And project reports are secret. But we are the richest people in the world, thanks to Exxon’s pristine straightness and openness in dealing with us. We are surely the richest people globally on paper, but we are just as surely the most bankrupt in the brain, where our oil endowment is concerned. A word of gratitude is extended to brothers Ali and Jagdeo for setting the standards for us, and Master Sahib Routledge for transforming both of them to this neon-like state.

We are partners, hopefully more than in name, but Exxon’s expenses are a CIA and White House secret. This sum is coming out of our pocket, only for us to discover that we have no pants on. Apologies for having to get so graphic. Expenses of all things? I cannot help thinking that the Masterpiece Theater innovator, Alistair Routledge, is up to something funny. Surely, Dr. Jagdeo, another innovator with a mean streak, jests. The trouble is that I am not laughing, and as I take in the landscape, more and more Guyanese are also not laughing.

It is why I say again that Guyana will get some form of what could pass for a parent company guarantee that is held out to be ‘unlimited.’ The devil will be in the definition. Remember I said so. Remember this one also: Exxon will find a way (oh yes, it will) to pass that on to Guyana, and we will be none the wiser for it. It is not going to be anything as crude as listing it on a line under official costs/expenses. Come on, even Exxon is not so crass, so boorish, so lacking in nimbleness to try to pull such a fast one, so openly. I said so before, and do so again: it is what is withheld under corporate cover, not disclosable to these lost Guyanese suckers.

Considering all the secrets, all the corporate and leadership gyrations, all the many intangibles, of which Guyanese are largely ignorant, we will be paying for any guarantee, except that we would not know because it is highly likely to be under the table and off the books. I have to love these guys, Guyanese and Americans. From all this, I know one thing with ironclad stoutness: Alistair Routledge will not go the way of Rod Henson, nor Bharrat Jagdeo the way of David Granger. It should now be clear as to why these brothers are so dear to me.

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June 2023