Former Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud wants the ExxonMobil Foundation to reconsider the role of the US$10M it earmarked for investment in Guyana over the next five years.
The oil giant’s philanthropic arm announced last month that it teamed up with the University of Guyana and Conservation International Guyana to invest in providing training opportunities for locals and to preserve the country’s natural resources.
But Persaud has since written the Foundation’s President, Kevin Murphy asking for a review of the areas identified for investment.
The former Government Minister says he supports the investment in education but opposes the involvement of Conservation International in the initiative.
Guyana’s Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources has already expressed concerns of conflict of interest with the oil company funding the environmental watchdog.
But the United States – headquartered organisation assured that though it received the grant from ExxonMobil, it will maintain its independence.
See full letter dispatched by Robert Persaud below:
Dear Mr. Murphy,
ExxonMobil Foundation’s Support for Guyana
I would like to express my support and commend your organization for its care to Guyana by investing US$10 Million over the next five (5) years into programmes which will advance Guyana’s sustainable economy through investments in education, research, sustainable management and conservation of the country’s vast ecosystems. However, the funds to be invested into Guyana should be tailored to more specific areas of national importance as the local economy evolves into an oil producing and exporting nation. The emphasis should be on the improvement of the local content and benefits of the economy in a more holistic manner, than to those of the environmental sector. As such, the key beneficial partner which is the University of Guyana is very appropriate, but the grantee organization is not suitable for Guyana’s current economic priorities, as their objective and mandate will be bias and not impartial in their execution of the goals of ExxonMobil Foundations for Guyana.
The emphasis must be on the development of the local sectors for the entire value-chain of the new oil sector to receive the benefits. This will allow for other traditional sectors to also be improved and can help in the development of the energy sector and the entire economy.
The funds should be local content specific. The impact on local content will allow the Guyanese economy which is resource-rich to capture economic benefits as well as increasing local participation in the value-chain of equipment and services that support the petroleum sector. Hence, the support by your organization should aim to support the productive capacity in the most expansive form, including all government interventions, measures or programmes that aim to increase shares of employment, services, manufacturing provisions and overall financial value to the local industry value-chain. The objective of the support must also comprise the initiatives that target the strengthening of the productive sectors of the national economy; be it in manufacturing or agriculture and are measured by the achieved growth or sustainability of the targeted sectors. In addition, the overall objective should be to raise growth and improve the competitiveness of the overall economy while maintaining a rising trend in living standards.
Therefore, by focusing on local content development, the role of the foundation in Guyana’s economy will be specifically concerned with measures targeting the derivation of value, where value is placed entirely on areas that are defined as ‘localized’. The aim of the funds to be invested must be to encourage the participation and development of national labour, goods, services, technology and capital.
Whilst, I support the Government of Guyana’s plans in its Green State Development Strategy (GSDD) which envisions a commitment to a green economy and sustainable development, I do not support Conservation International (CI) role in the development of the pillars of the plan. The goals of the GSDS can only be achieve by an all-inclusive framework, which CI does not current possess.
Given the views expressed above, I am imploring you and the directives of your foundation to reconsider the role of the funds to be invested in Guyana. Focus on local content development, and not just on a singular sector and a bias grantee institution which will not objectively implement the funds for the general benefits of the people of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
Robert M. Persaud
Fmr. Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment
Republic of Guyana