The stability of a Government is considered an important factor for any investor to consider when looking to invest in that country. There is concern that Guyana’s lack of political stability will easily turn off investors, particularly considering the success that neighbouring Suriname has had, at both finding oil and a successful transition of Government.
Suriname held elections on May 25,
2020, and new a President, Chan Santokhi, was sworn in on July 16.
Guyana, meanwhile, held its elections on March 2. Despite losing by
15,416 votes, however, caretaker President David Granger has doggedly
refused to concede defeat.
According to political and oil and gas commentator Christopher Ram, the political impasse only undermines Guyana’s ability to attract investment. In an invited comment, he noted that when put next to the stable and politically mature Suriname, Guyana fares poorly as an attractive investment destination.
“You’re comparing one country that has just had a constitutional and smooth transition from one Administration to another, with a President in place and a Parliament to be convened. And in Guyana you have just the opposite,” Ram observed.
“I think it’s self-evident. No matter what other advantages there might be for Guyana, those are seriously overwhelmingly disadvantages. Particularly given the uncertainty with how it can turn out. The threat of economic sanctions, which would mean the entire economy could be stalled.”
The former President of the Bar
association added that Guyana must resolve its political upheaval
quickly to maintain its place among the democratic nations of the world
and preserve its spot as a viable investment destination.
Oil was found offshore Suriname in January of this year by Apache and Total. Total also has a presence in Guyana, owning 25 per cent of the Orinduik Block alongside Tullow. It also holds a percentage in the Kanuku Block. In addition, there are a number of upcoming projects planned for offshore Suriname.
Despite the economic stakes involved and the fact that his own country’s court convicted him last year of the 1982 murders of 15 political opponents, former Suriname President Desi Bouterse peacefully demitted office and handed over power to Santokhi on July 16.
After discovering 1.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent for last year, Guyana took first place for the most discoveries for 2019. So far, Esso Exploration & Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), Exxon’s local subsidiary, has made 16 oil finds in the Stabroek Block some 100 miles offshore Guyana.
Last year, the company made five
discoveries. These discoveries have pushed the total estimated
recoverable barrels of oil equivalent to over six billion. It made one
discovery for 2020, the Uaru discovery, which was announced in January.
Uaru is ExxonMobil’s 16th oil discovery in the Stabroek Block.
Since the arrival of the deadly COVID-19 disease on the world scene, however, Exxon like many other companies, has scaled down its plans. It is estimated that delays in the Payara project will eventually cost Guyana billions. Locally, Government has closed its borders to all but preapproved flights.
The economic problems created by COVID-19 are compounded by Guyana’s political crisis. It has been over four months since Guyanese went to the polls and there has been no lawful result. A 33-day National Recount had shown that the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) won the March 2 elections with 233,336 votes, while the APNU/AFC coalition garnered 217,920.
Despite their loss, however, APNU/AFC has refused to concede. The coalition has dragged the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) before every court from the High Court to the Court of Appeal, eventually ending up at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), while using arguments that many have described as frivolous and designed to waste time.
The international community has overwhelmingly declared that the results from the recount, should be used to declare a President. In addition, they have made it clear that sanctions will be used if necessary, with the United States going so far as to institute personal sanctions against APNU/AFC leaders.
Calls urging President David Granger to concede have come from several US politicians, the United States Government, United Kingdom and Canada. Other countries and organisations around the world and even the President’s own son-in-law, Dominic Gaskin, have echoed such calls. (G3)