OPINION: Granger and Jagdeo with oil blocks extension

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 August 2023, 14:29 by Denis Chabrol

by GHK Lall

David Granger is the giver, not Bharrat Jagdeo.  What is surprising is that Vice President Jagdeo would step forward and actually claim ownership of the extension of the blocks that amounts to shoving forward by one year the relinquishment in October, two months hence.  I am still trying to figure out why would VP Jagdeo do such a thing?  There is no local political mileage accruing to him for doing so.  And why did then President Granger take it upon himself to issue that approval at the time that he did?  I think a parallel can be drawn with what was done by President Ramotar in late April 2015 just prior to the national elections of that year with oil also.

First, the context was that everybody, including Americans, were pontificating about ‘illegal’ government, lame duck administration, or that anything done by the PNC Government was not binding.  So, aside from strategic forward planning (a nice phrase for scheming) how is it that these corporate approaches were being made by Exxon so deep into the crippling elections hour?  I agree that business goes on, but this was huge, and not some run-of-the-mill, matter.  Therefore, it should have waited until Guyana’s elections disputes were over.  Exxon had to wait.  David Granger had to make the company wait.  And whichever the government-in-waiting, that was the one that had to be left to make that decision, viz., giving or not giving approval for an extension of the oil blocks at issue.  Then, though the Granger camp may make the argument that what he granted was a force majeure extension dictated by circumstances, and not an extension of relinquishment.  I disagree.  I do not think that the sitting government had to make that call, or should have.

Interestingly, I spot some protective language in the July 24, 2020, letter from Mr. Granger to Mr. Routledge, which said that the “timeline will be reviewed on a quarterly basis to determine whether adjustments to this period are warranted, the first such review being on September 9, 2020” (table in letter under subsection titled “Period (additional time)).  Moving beyond this inexplicable, inexcusable extension by Mr. Granger, my question is why didn’t the new PPP Government take advantage of that opening, and put the brakes on this extension?  Or why has it not done the same in any of the 12 calendar quarters since, as provided for in Mr. Granger’s July 24th letter?  In some sense, it could be said that both former President Granger and former President Jagdeo, now the minister responsible for petroleum, both have their hands in this extension, and both did wrong.  It is my position that Mr. Granger did wrong when he issued that extension letter to Mr. Routledge, and Mr. Jagdeo did the same when he did nothing since then to reverse what the former President did.  Though for pandemic purposes, the extension impacted the relinquishment date, so there is no cover in claiming the latter was not intended.

Still further, relinquishment of the oil blocks was not coming due until October 2023; from then it was three long years ahead; so, there was significant time on hand for a fresh government to deal with Exxon’s concerns.  Plus, the so-called lost period/year of 2020-2021 due to the Covid-19 curtailments was not even at the halfway point, i.e., Mr. Granger’s letter is dated July 24, 2020, and gave Exxon a first-time extension until March 2021, eight months into the future.  Of note, mining operations were declared “essential” back then, which meant that Exxon’s business was not impacted to any great degree.

From my perspective, what was at work were corporate cook-ups, which were followed by political leadership contortions.  From Exxon’s side, I recognize a good old-fashioned American Hustle; from the Guyana side of this wheeling and dealing, I discern what could have been a last-minute ploy by David Granger to curry favor with the Yankees, so as to gain some elections accommodations.  Nothing is beyond the pale of consideration when politicians and access to power are involved.  If there has to be selling of Guyana, then selling it will be.

At first blush, and in the interests of fairness, I thought that Dr. Jagdeo was due an apology, given the July 2020 extension authorized under the signature of David Granger, which shifted relinquishment forward by a year.  No apology is due because the PPP Government and Oil Minister Jagdeo have been content to do the baffling.  Jagdeo proudly and defiantly took ownership of David Granger’s one-year extension, which advanced relinquishment.  The PPP has been zealous and comprehensive in undoing whatever the PNC did during its tenure, with one conspicuous exception.  OIL!  When the subject at hand involved the nation’s oil wealth, the PPP Government and VP Jagdeo works overtime, bends over backwards, to outdo and out-deliver the PNC and Mr. Granger.  Currying favor with Americans, again.

When I contemplate these things, I come to an unswerving place.  Generally speaking, politicians are not heroes.  Rather, they are best identified by another word that sounds like it begins with an ‘h’ but it is one that starts with a ‘w’ and ends with an e.