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Oil revenues can choke Guyana's democracy - Latin American Political Risk Analysis


By Kiana Wilburg

Petroleumworld 05 29 2018

In any democratic state, the citizenry elects a political unit to serve, protect and represent its interest/rights. But if the systems which allow this very ‘political unit' to carry out its elected function are weak, then it opens the floodgates for rampant corruption.

It is with this understanding in mind that Thiago de Aragao, Director of the Latin American Political Risk Analysis, has called on the Government of Guyana to strengthen systems governing the electoral process, taxation and regulation. Aragao made the point that if these instruments for equality are not up to standard, then Guyana's democracy can end up being “choked by oil and gas money”.

In a recent interview with Kaieteur News in California, Aragao explained that Guyanese should understand that the goal of the petroleum investor is to drill, extract, and burn all the oil and gas resources it can acquire. “The business plan is to burn it all”. To ensure that it can carry out its objective uninterrupted, Aragao said that oil and gas investors will seek to exert influence in every place it can. In this regard, he pointed out that campaign financing loopholes are always a target.

In the USA's 2016 election cycle alone, the oil and gas industry contributed over US$103 million. In funneling billions of dollars into the election, Aragao said that the companies are able to exert influence over policy that it is against. “Policies in short, end up serving the interest of the petroleum investors.”

In a report called The Chilling Effects on Oil & Gas Money on Democracy, Clean Water Action, it was outlined how large polluters influence environmental policy and oversight. The report focused on the broad, historic formula for acquiring power and influencing policymakers, which relied on campaign finance and lobbying. The report also exposed how oil and gas companies continue to have a major advantage over the rights of the American people when it comes to regulatory policy.

Given the secrecy that has surrounded campaign financing in Guyana, the Brazilian Director said that authorities here would be wise to amend its archaic laws before the next election to ensure transparency.
He commented too, that it would be up to the policy leaders to decide whether there will be laws to cap the moneys they can receive from oil companies during the election campaign or make a decision to not receive any at all.

The Political Analyst said, “Personally, I am against oil companies funding campaigns because implicitly there is an expectation. Even if it is legal, the candidate is expected to return something to the company. In my experience, I don't think that a country should be driven in that direction. But it comes back to the overarching principle of transparency. This is a key issue here.”

Aragao said that Guyana's democracy can also be caught in a stranglehold if the systems for environmental regulation and taxation are left in a weak and disorganized manner.

The leading Political Analyst said, “If the country is to thrive then there must be a clear set of rules for taxation in the oil and gas industry as well as environmental regulation. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for abuse and for oil money to rule and lead the way. Leaders must seek to remove loopholes for exploitation. If you have an environment of clear tax systems for oil and gas, then this will be one of the major things that will attract other investors, the kind that would also be willing to engage in conscionable negotiations.”

Aragao added, “Oil companies look at your tax system, regulatory framework and your electoral system. If those things are not in check, then you are giving away parts of your democracy…”

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Story by Kiana Wilburg from Kaieter News.
05 28 2018

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