Country Manager of ExxonMobil Guyana, Rod Henson and a team from the company on Friday morning appeared before the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources.
During that engagement, Opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic Parliamentarian, Pauline Sukhai, grilled the team on its 10 Million US dollars investment, which was recently announced by the company to push capacity building efforts at Conservation International and the University of Guyana.
Ms. Sukhai said, “There are concerns in the public that CI is an international NGO and is considered to be an international watchdog on the environment, don’t you think that CI being a grantee of 10 million US dollars is actually a conflict of interest?”
In response to Ms. Sukhai’s queries, ExxonMobil’s Country Manager, Rod Henson said, “I am not aware that Conservation International has a sole role…as a watchdog. ExxonMobil uses this organization around the world and I would also like to point out that this is not just CI this is an excellent partnership with the University of Guyana to help capacity building and build up some of their programmes and also to diversify the economy.”
He also explained that the collaboration with CI as well as the University is intended to strengthen the countries diversification efforts and should not be viewed in a negative light. He said, “There has been a lot of talks that Guyana is not just about oil.”
In continuing with her line of questioning, Ms. Sukhai said, “Having read the release from the ExxonMobil foundation I realized that they are providing funding to pursue in Guyana what is considered to be a political initiative. I say that to say that the GSDS (Green State Development Strategy) is not comprehensively documented and consulted upon yet in fact that strategy has not reached the Parliament for its debate or for its approval.”
In reacting to this comment, Mr. Henson said, “ExxonMobil is not a political company. We don’t choose sides we are apolitical we are not funding any political party, any political side or any political initiatives.”
The question was also asked if discussions were held with the Government prior to this partnership. He responded that “This is our ExxonMobil Foundation initiative. This was not directed or approved by the Government. This was a good thing.”
On Monday, July 3, ExxonMobil announced that it will be investing 10 million US dollars into Conservation International Guyana and the University of Guyana.
The company said this will be done through the ExxonMobil Foundation and will be injected over the next five years.
The investment is also intended to support Guyana’s Green State Development Strategy, which is the country’s 15-year plan that aims, among other things, to diversify Guyana’s economy and balance economic growth with the sustainable management and conservation of the country’s ecosystems.