ExxonMobil contract to be released in December – Minister of State

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Guyana's Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

After several months of controversy surrounding the full disclosure of the contract between Guyana and US oil major ExxonMobil, the country’s Minister of State said Thursday the document will be made public in December.

Speaking to reporters at his post-Cabinet briefing, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, said after fully considering the matter Cabinet has made a decision to make the contract public. “The matter was discussed at Cabinet…What I would  say also is that the Exxon Contract with the government of Guyana will be made public during the month of December and that is the contract and all its terms and conditions.”

Cabinet, he said, has had a fulsome discussion on the matter and “we have taken all of the issues into consideration ….we also recognize that there is a need expressed by our population for greater inclusiveness, for more information to be provided and we take those into consideration as well.”

The Chief Government spokesman said, “We believe that it is important that we take the public into our confidence with respect to not only this contract but other contract which might affect our dealing with other companies in relation to the dealings of natural resources, the national patrimony of Guyana.”

He noted too that there were background checks which a government has to do when it’s going to take certain steps, such as the release of the documents, “so I have given you a framework, a timeline within which the contract will be made available.”

Mr. Harmon dismissed questions on the border and security related issues related to Venezuela’s claim to a large portion of Guyana’s territory and possible fallout as a result of the release of the contract.

According to Mr. Harmon, “we will deal with that …that’s another issue we will deal with at the appropriate time.”

He did indicate that the matter of the security implications have been discussed at the Cabinet level.

Guyana and ExxonMobil inked a Petroleum Sharing Agreement back in July 2016 but the document has never been made public despite public and political pressures.

Earlier in November, Presidential Advisor on Petroleum in Guyana, Dr. Jan Mangal, told the media that in the interest of transparency and accountability, all resource agreements, including the petroleum contract between ExxonMobil and the South American country, should be made public.

Dr. Mangal said at the time “…I believe all resource contracts should be made public, not only petroleum; diamond, gold, timber. These are all resources of the people…in the long-term that is what will help Guyana.”

The announcement by the state minister could also signal a move by the Guyana government to make other contracts signed for petroleum exploration and production public, since there was always a concern that to release just the ExxonMobil agreement could put the company at a disadvantage.