In the aftermath of fallout from a New York Times (NYT) article on Guyana’s preparation for oil, ExxonMobil Guyana in a statement issued today said that it did not pay for the reporter to travel to the South American country to prepare the article.
“Guyana is a beautiful place with beautiful people. We are happy to have the opportunity to operate and live in the communities in Guyana. The New York Times is an independent media entity based in the United States. ExxonMobil did not pay for the reporter to travel to Guyana for this article,” the company said in a Facebook post.
It further added that its only involvement was participating in an interview with the New York Times. “ExxonMobil’s only involvement was our agreement to be interviewed and, at the request of the reporter, we offered to facilitate a tour of our contracted assets,” said the statement from ExxonMobil.
The New York Times article appeared on July 20, 2018, under the headline ‘The $20 Billion Question for Guyana’. Writer Clifford Krauss describes Guyana as a poor, underdeveloped country prone to corruption and which might fall prey to the ‘Paradox of Plenty’, or the resource curse where revenues derived from oil or other natural resources are either mismanaged or outright stolen.
Aspects of the article that described the country as having limited paved highways, school children commuting to school via dugout canoes and the capital being a ‘clapboard’ city did not sit well with Guyanese on social media. Public reaction to the article has been one of outrage based on the perception expressed by some that it paints the country and people as backwards and inept.
Guyana’s Former Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud, in a post on his Facebook page on Saturday, pondered whether there was a larger strategy afoot given the NYT article’s timing. “Are we reduced to a people standing motionless for visiting birds to fly over our heads and excrete on us?” he asked.
He also questioned why there has not been a definitive response/correction from the national entities in charge of public information and policy dissemination.
“Where are the voices and ‘experts’ who pontificate on what should and should not be done in the O&G sector? Is that the distorted image they want to be projected, internationally?” he asked.
ExxonMobil Guyana has facilitated a tour for local reporters to one of its offshore vessels in recent months and the company has increased its visibility in the public domain, with its Country Manager and Senior Director, Public and Government Affairs, regularly interacting with reporters at events.