Giving It All Away

By Michael De Gale
January 29, 2008

Natural GasThe caption in the business section of the Trinidad Guardian 24/01/08 read, “Petro-Canada excited over T&T gas find”. The article referred to the recent discovery of between 0.6 – 1.3 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. I’m not a geologist, but that strikes me as a significant amount of natural gas regardless of how it is measured. Petro-Canada is reported to have said that the local gas discovery is among the “more significant” of its international exploration successes. What’s more, this find is the first of a four well program and according to company officials, “…the discovery validates our exploration model and further success on the block could lead to a material development”. I am not sure what the term “material development” means but I am willing to wager a bet that the mother load is yet to be discovered.

Nonetheless, that is beside the point. What really disturbed me about the article was the so called “partnership agreement” in which the Petroleum Company of T&T, Petrotrin, owns 10% and Petro-Canada owns the remaining 90% of the entire operation. Hell! I too would be excited if I owned 90% of any resource that is as lucrative as oil and gas – especially if it is the birthright of other people. If this is the full extent of the agreement, one does not have to be an economist to figure out that something is drastically wrong or somebody buckled under the pressure of high stakes negotiations. This does not strike me as a partnership but more like the 30 pieces of silver it took to give it all away. Regardless of who brought what to the table, there is no “Win – Win” situation here; there are only big winners and pathetic losers. Needless to say, the losers are none other than the people of T&T.

For the sake of argument, let’s say this was a legitimate agreement free of any questionable conduct or reasons to raise red flags. In such a scenario, the parties that were involved in negotiating this agreement should be barred from any future negotiations and immediate steps should be taken to amend that contract. For too long MNCs have sucked the natural resources of under developed countries leaving them more destitute and wretched than they found them. It is time for that predatory and parasitic behaviour to stop. The Nigerian playwright and activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, gave his life in 1995 so that the Ogoni people in their oil rich region could have greater control of their natural resources. Our leaders should be willing to sacrifice no less.

It is never easy negotiating with multinational corporations particularly when you feel compromised. However, that is no reason to cower and give away your resources to the lowest bidder. In New Foundland for example, one of the poorest provinces in Canada, the Danny Williams administration in 2005 put ExxonMobile and other oil consortiums on notice that they would aggressively negotiate for enhanced local benefits from any agreement to develop their oil and gas resources. Premier Williams stated clearly that there will be “no more giveaways”. He was unequivocal about the approach he would take to resource development: “My team has received a mandate to seize control of our own destiny,” he said, “the giveaways end right here and right now.” As expected, business and various conservative elements raised a hue and cry but the premier stood his ground. Despite threatening to take their exploration activities elsewhere and vociferous public rhetoric, straw polls showed 77% in favour of “leaving it in the ground”. Two years later, the consortium returned to the bargaining table and struck a new agreement with the province. Once the most destitute of Canadian provinces, New Foundland and Labrador with its oil and gas resources is now poised to be another jewel in the Canadian crown.

My question is, how long will we continue to allow foreigners and the local elite to reap the benefits of our resources while our people languish in a country full of inflation, corruption, injustice, murder, armed robbery, maladministration, drug-trafficking, hunger, dishonesty and plain stupidity, to quote Saro-Wiwa himself? The people of T&T are not asking for the moon just a bigger slice of what is rightfully theirs. It is curious that the OWTU and the once powerful Labour Congress remain conspicuously silent on this atrocity.

24 thoughts on “Giving It All Away”

  1. I totally agree with You, but, the People of Trinidad and Tobago has to be of the mindset to want change. By sitting and just talking about all these foreign Corporations coming in and taking away the giant portion of our resources solves nothing,what do we as a people intend to do about?
    One man made a difference and toppled the mighty British Empire from his Country, Ghandi,one person can make a difference, thousands standing up to what is wrong makes and create change. People forget that a Government is elected by the People, You cannot lose sight of the power in your vote, we can and we must hold our elected Officials accountable, that is our right.
    The Laws of the land applies to all citizens not just some, to fight this injustice to our Country we must first stand up as a people for what we believe, we cannot wait for someone to do it for us, with that mentality, we can blame no one for getting away with it, we are allowing them to when we do nothing. I am very proud to read your article, You are standing up for what you believe, we cannot go to their Country and get away with this, why are they getting away with it, I blame the people, we are letting our Government sell our birthright when all we do is talk but we take no action. Wake up and smell the roses it is not to late.

  2. Trinidad and Tobago, as a people, need to recall what Eric Williams, our founding father, pointed out. It is our oil. It is our gas. They develop it for us, but it is ours. One hundred years into the gas and oil exploration business, we are still allowing outsiders to rob us blind, publicly. Would Venezuela do this? Would saudi arabia? They have controlling interests in their mineral wealth. We continue to act like we know nothing, and can do nothing for ourselved.

    We need to look at these ageements again, and renegotiate them. if the company that finds the gas want to get out, let them,. there are Nigerian exploration ompanies to which the government of that country is leasing exploration sites. This is a plan to use home grown petroleum and chemical engineers to improve its people’s position. We in Trinidad and tobago need to start doing the same. twenty-four years ago, engineers in the teklephone company were designing new things for Telco. There were Trinis too. What is UWI and UTT doing about securing our future?

  3. Regret typos. When I go back to edit, the World Press people cut me off and I lose my best thoughts. Thus, I am forced to rush.

  4. Something like this occured in Liberia under Charles Taylor. He signed an agreement with Mittal to exploit vast steel resources in the country that essential locked Liberians out of any benefits from the riches under their feet. Luckily Johnson Sirleaf, the new President, had Mittal re-do the arrangements. What we see is that corportate structures from emerging world economies are no less exploitive than their imperial counterparts, if they are presented with the opportunity so to do.

    We see the same thing in occurence in the Congo and Niger. In the Congo the economic benefit of having a reservoir of Colton, the mineral from which the charged material for making chips for computerized devices is extracted, does not trickle down to the people under whose very feet that mineral is extracted. In Niger the proceeds from French run Uranium mines go to the economy of France, while the people there suffer from famine and have to depend on international succor for survival.

    Of what significance is the fact that your national geography is fortunate to be the home to riches, when the benefits are unequally distributed between you the people, and the corporate external entity being given the opportunity to pimp it. Manning better wake up and stop shuffling his feet in front of these people. The fact that there is competition out there ready and willing to compete with the Canadians for rights to exploit this resource is all the incentive required to deal tough. Wake up Manning and stop being a bum.

  5. I agree with you all. Like Ruel says, the Government has the responsibility of safeguarding the rights to the resource, and the future that it guarantees for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

    Mr. Manning is not only the Prime Minister, but a Gelogist, as he reminds from time to time. He, more than the average poltician should appreciate the issues at stake here.

    In the zeal for obtaining foreign investments, our politicians frequently bend over backwards to acommodate the multinationals. Contractual agreements have be carefully researched and crafted so that trinbagonians can benefit from the wealth generated, at least as much as the foreigners do.

  6. For the record: The owner of Mittal Steel, while born in India and claiming Indian heritage, has lived most of his business life in England, and is an expert at exploiting both eastern European countries and other Third World places. For profiteers, there is nothing called nationality.

    The TnT governmen needs to encourage consortiums of nationals to invest in bidding for leases for oil and gas. Granted that we do not have “the equipment”. Well get the lease first, and see how many people would partner with you to explore it. Angolans are exploring their own off shore facilities, as well as others, and this is true also in Algeria.

    I would love nothing better than to see two or three gas exploration companies owned by TnT nationals, getting into this in competition with the big boys. Note that the Unit Trust Corp. started small. Now look where they/we are.The national resources do not belong to the government, but to the people. A legitimate bid for a lease must get some consideration.

  7. Sure, Mr. Manning is a geologist ,and he fully realizes that exploration for oil and natural gas is a very risky, expensive and technically complex business.
    Most countries realize that private enterprise is preferable to national agencies being involved in these activities.T&T is not yet in a position to undertake this type of activity without the assistance of “foreigners”. It is easy to spout exploitation theories, but the Petro Canada contract is within acceptable international standards.What should be looked at is the level of taxation of these companies.

  8. Acceptable international standards are not exactly agreements fused by consensus between the rich and powerful and the broke with rich potential under the ground somewhere in their geography. I seriously doubt whether Canada or any other of the rich nations would accept such a lopsided property division of their natural resources.

    Look, they lecture us continuously about a new global economy. Every day changes are enacted to the manner business and trade is being done by these same corporate and international forces that, with great irony, seek to retain the same anachronostic international acceptable standards when it comes to property ownership of resources of third world countries.

    Like I said, when you have something that is in demand you can leverage for greater benefits from its exploitation. Because your neigbour accepts a dollar and a hand shake does not mean you have to do the same. 40/60 is the kind of division you want. And if they do not like that tell them to take a hike and seek out their competition.

  9. Again, I am infull agreement, Carl. I alluded to Mr. Manning being a Geologist, only from the point of view (mnor as it might be)that he, (and Mr. Rowley, also a Geologist) should fully appreciate the complex natural processes involved in the genesis of oil and natural gas, and the fact that they really are not infinite resources. That being so, they should be more aware than most of the other politicians, on the importance of ensuring that administrative and economic (you mentioned taxation)advantages (for the country) are implicitly maximized in all agreements and negotiations with the multinationals.

  10. I doubt that the agreements that MNC makes with developing countries whom they perceive to be weak and vulnerable is the same that they would make with countries that are more developed. The very conduct of MNCs is developing countries leaves much to be desired as is evident in various African countries when it comes to the exploration of all their natural resources. Environmental degredation is only the most visible manifestation of abuse not to mention the exploitation of the indigineous labour force. If this is the disregard they have for the environment and the labour force, I shudder to see what the economic agreements look like.

    Contrast the Petrotrin agreement with the one that was made in Canada involving Perto-Can and other big players with respect to the development of the oil and gas resources in New Foundland & Labrador. The following quote will help to make the point,
    “Our equity stake, super royalty of 6.5 per cent on top of the 30 per cent in the generic royalty regime, and the fact that all work that can be done in the province will be done here, ensure we are getting maximum value from this resource,” said the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Natural Resources. “We are excited about this new era where by the province is fully participating in the development of our rich natural resources.”

    In light of the forgoing quote, please tell me who made the most lucrative agreement, T&T or New Foundland? We don’t need a lamp to see the sun. In a word, we got screwed.

  11. 1. Our leaders don’t have what it takes to run the country far less negotiate with a strong foriegn business.

    2. 10%? Kick that company right out the country and open up bidding to other global companies – highest bidder wins.

    Be smart man – come on!

    These people are some third world, non-business fools to end up on the wrong end of the stick. What fools.

  12. People in TnT should be united, and get behind the governmet to renege on this agreement. The real “racists” are the multinationals who recruit a few natives to make things look good. Inidentally, this was what all the conflict in the Niger Delta is about. It has gone on for a long time, but the multinationals are getting the idea that these poor African people-the Ijaw and the Calabari ethnic groups, are not to be sold down the river; the oil and gas is theirs first, and the Federation of Nigeria’s after that.We could use more peaceful methods to get back what is ours, and more importantly, our grandchildren’s. No multinational ever left a country poorer than hen it came in, but many of the indigenous people re impoverished by the stealing of their patrimony.

    Giving me ten percent of the value of a commodity that is rightfully mine, is stealing.

    My father used to say that a man should be smart enough to know whether what you put by his mouth is s–(Faeces) or butter.

  13. Marty, that’s putting it a little stronger than I would have said, but your point no. 1. is a significant part of the problem.

    The Government shoudn’t have to shoulder the entire blame though. The electorate should demand more from them. During recent General Elections, no pressure has ever been put on candidates to deal with the really important issues facing the country. Debates should be organized and the candidates should be made to detail among proposed business visions for the country, and those types of things. When you look at other countries, this is the kind of emphasis being brought to bear during elections. Even in Jamaica, during the last elections there was this US style debate between the leading politicians and we (Jamaicans and those of us with vested interests in that country) really got to hear what Bruce, Portia and their team mates had in store for that country. And I think that this clarity gave the population some basis ( although you will always have the PNP and JLP till ah dead braindead types)for choice, and the polls show that this contributed to Bruce having the the edge. i am not sying that this is not the end all or be all of it, but simply a good start…

    If T&T’s leaders got serious, and felt not only compelled, but obligated to improve business practices, then some of these deals with the multinationals may probably be better for the country, or at least inspire more confidence from the citizenry.

  14. Folks I strongly apologized for not reading this post sooner and contributing my one ” mite ” to the rich pot of comment on this very disturbing subject.

    This article reminded me of the Question asked of me back in 1970( could be 1969 )by a brilliant Black American Cal Tech student who was hiding in Trinidad from the Black panthers after he gave an interview to the reader’s digest.

    He was subsequently detained by the TNT Immigration and sent home in the Company of FBU officers.
    He asked me why is it we allow MNC’s to come into our country ,bribe a few officials, then rip off all our resources,make “bookoo bucks” then leave our country dilapidated for the most part and broke ?
    I had never heard of such nor even imagined such because I always ( at that time ) thought that the Government will look after our interest diligently and get the best possible deal for us!

    Quite frankly I was not aware that they are still doing that ?
    I had thought that with Mr .Manning,a Geologist,looking on we will have owned ( like the Saudis and Iranians and Russians and Chinese ) most of our natural resources if not all!

    Please,tell me you all are joking that in this day and age of the Internet and so many educated TNT people with excellent talent and managerial skills and negotiating skills …tell me that you all must be joking when you all are saying that TNT’s resources are owned by Canadians and foreigners?
    I am angry really angry and ticked off…what the heck is going on in this country ?
    Daniels,Edwards,Raffique Shah,Kangal,Dr.Cudjoe and Company including the Minority members of parliament and the Press….what the heck is going on with our resources while you folks sit silently by and say nothing real except for the comments as Mr.Degale exposed the situation?]
    Plain talk bad manners Mr.Daniels how come a subject as important as this ( the very economic life blood of our Nation which is to provide prosperity not poverty like haiti ) you are silent mostly and your explanations are all but gobble de gook …come now Mr.Daniels you could do a lot better than that!

    I am not here to thrash any of you but to ask the HARD Questions why is it you all individually and collectively are not doing anything about the situation ?
    Some of you all comment on Mr.Chauvez but as far as I know Mr.Chauvez’s Venezuela Owns their oil and owns CITGO along with Major Waterfronts in the home of the MNC’S….what about us are we just too plain dumb and stupid or just too ignorant to own what is in our beneath our waters and land ?

    ladies and gentlemen we surely can do way better than that and we must because we owe it to the future generations and ourselves to safe guard what resources we have and to get the fairest deal in the market place and the only deal which is fair to us is :FULL OWNERSHIP OF OUR RESOURCES!

    Please,do not ” pen” us to death with gobble de gook as to why it cannot be done because quite frankly,I am not interested in the arguments as to why it cannot be done but ( yes I am bigoted here as some of you said ) only in the viable methods by which it can be done ASAP.

  15. It is your lack of understanding and insufferable crazy ego that causes what is clearly understandble to others to become gobbldeegook to you. What is gobbledeegook about about advocating that the state be influenced by the economic agency of demand. You proceed to contribute a long harrangue that said absolutely nothing that has not already been said before, after, like Christopher Columbus, you happened upon the thread. And like his assertion that he had discovered what had already been discovered for centuries, you postulate for “the fairest deal in the market place”, as if that was some profound infusion into the debate.

    Read what was said before you fool. That is exactly what ever poster before you has said, only without having to circumlocute their way to the point. The idiots who are making these deals are probably going into the meetings with the same kinds of disjointed patterns of reasonings swirling around in their psyches.

  16. Kerry,

    You’ve seen the debates held last year – not one per my knowledge. Only picong after picong thrown at each and other party. T&T has slid into a political culture that has no remote resemblance to the political culture of the early days around independence. No more Williams’, no more Capildeo’s, no more Butler’s, no more Rienzi’s – altogether there are no more heroes in Trinidad and Tobago.

    Today’s politicians can hold a candle to those great men who shaped the early days of the nation. Politicians today – both sides of the floor – lack the intellectual faculty to recognize the nation needs to grow to it’s natural next step – citizen rights. Citizen rights simply put is the right of the citizen to pursue personal beneficial endeavours that bring no harm to any, without impediment. And the role of the State is to facilitate and protect that right – from foreign influences, domestic influences (like crime), and from the State itself (it will enforce upon the Government citizens and their taxes must be treated responsibly, providing security, infrastructure and so on). Citizen rights will give the people of the nation the necessary ingredients to grow and produce, and become wealthy.

    But see the colonial powers that sit on the floor of both sides of today’s parliament do not want that to happen.

  17. You can do so much better than that Mr.Daniels and I trust that you will as you read this post and one must understand your frustration when challenge but Mr.Daniels it is about doing not simply talking and I believe that you could answer the Hard questions and provide a viable and practical solution then act upon it for anything less shall relegate you to the band of idiots which stains our Parliament today and yesterday day and maybe tomorrow unless you ,Sir,act now,Mr.Daniels and I know it is hard but yes you shall act AND WILL ACT NOW FOR IF YOU DO NOT WHO WILL?
    Your reaction to my post Mr.Daniels is quite understandable because it is not easy for you sit back and have to deal with a Posts which ask of you the ” Hard questions” and your response by referring to someone as a ” fool” is really irrelevant and at the end of the day you have not answered the Hard question which was asked of you…
    A man with your education and your high sounding words and quotes about logic and logical arguments etc must feel a bit put off when asked ” What have you done or have not done to stop the MNC’s ripping off our country’s resources in this day and age as if we are so back of the woods illiterate country …the question is what have you done about it ?
    If you do not know what to do and feel that you do not have the power to do anything and you feel frustrated as a result and slams into me to vent your frustration that is okay but now you have done so can we get back to the question and please,no more gobble de gook and double talk and hiding within words but please,get to the question( which I believe you are very capable of answering intelligently)what have you done and what have you not done which contributed to the “ripping off ” of our resources by MNC’s and what are you going to do today ,right now ,to stop this rape of our country’s precious resources ?
    What do you know that we all ( you included ) need to do to force a re-negotiation ASAP and protection of our resources from being ripped off further by MNC’s and local thieves and con artist?
    Mr.Daniels that is the hard question ,Sir,there is no way around it and attacking me is not the answer,Sir!
    Now get to it Mr.Daniels take the lead for you are the educated ?
    The question remains what have you done and have not done to stop the ripping off of our resources by MNC’s ?
    Here is your opportunity to show your skills and intellect by coming up with a solid plan to stop the MNC’s and get us back in control of our resources …you can do it Mr.Daniels,yes we know you shall do it now!

  18. Why should I answer to you Harry Williamn? What clause in Eric Williams, Capildeo et al wills conferred upon you the authority to screen the contributions of natives of T&T? What an insufferable ego you have.

    That is why it is so difficult to have a debate for you. Because you do not think rationally. You reason in a childlike manner that produces these kinds of inane postulations. My God man, why do we have to enumerate to you what we are doing or what we have done for the betterment of our country? Really, shouldn’t you be out on a ledge high above the ground somewhere?

    I cannot believe that anyone with a modicum of sanity would presume the authority to vet people on this board on their contributions to their society. I showed some of my friends in my office your post and they are apopletic with amusenment. But seriously, rid yourself of the illusion that the you you beheld in your head is the you others image from your writings. That macho “what did you do when the master called” is fourth grade public school posturing. Didn’t you notice that you seem to be the only person on this DB that has not evolved from that cognitive stage?

  19. Quote Mr.Daniels ,”Why should I answer to you Harry Williamn? What clause in Eric Williams, Capildeo et al wills conferred upon you the authority to screen the contributions of natives of T&T? What an insufferable ego you have. Unquote

    Well,if you were or are in Dr.Eric Williams will I could surely understand why you are reluctant to dig and ferret out the answer to the question as to where in the heck are the Billions of US Oil Dollars which TNT earned 1973 etc gone???
    After all,was it not Eric Williams who was a (or the) Minister of finance during those times ?
    I am not smart enough to recall can you ?

    Now if you are in Dr.Capildeo’s will then surely you will want to know where all the flipping 1973 etc oil money gone because Dr.Capildeo did not get any nor was he in control of the oil money so he could not have left any for you but surely he will have left the task of seeking the answers as he will have done to you!

    I forgot to tell you that you are not called upon to answer to me but you are challenged to pick up your pen ( is it now a Kill harry Williamn Pen ?) and ” poison” the road for those who wish to
    “disappear” the US Billions in oil Dollars which are coming into our coffers as we speak with oil riding the ” US $ 100.00″ a barrel as we speak.
    The theory is a simple one: If you and folks with all the great debating knowledge and all the logic etc will use your talents ( I am beginning to wonder about yours as I feel the cold ,clammy ,hand of doubt slipping in here ) to ferret out how much money TNT received for our oil in 1973 and how was it all spent and where has it all gone to whom what and why etc then maybe the powers that be will think twice and three times before they venture to even think about ” disappearing” our money.
    What is so hard to comprehend about that?
    I shall hate to even think ( as some folks in my office suggested….yes we read the articles here too )that maybe you hesitate to seek the answers and seek to marginalize and trivialize the questions because maybe it is the ” race” of the folks who disappeared the ” money ” ,perhaps ?
    It darn sure was not Dr.Capildeo! Whose name you mentioned! Nor was it Vernon Jamadar! nor Harry Williamn! The money did mot just ups and walk away down the road you know …so put up or shut up Mr.Daniels! Peace!

  20. Harry Williamn your thinking is as disjointed as its literary refelection. From a pedestal of vacuity you proceeed to issue forth the kind of dogmatic drivel expected from concretized aimless cognitive wanderings. Have a ball chappy. I forgot to take into account the psychotropic effect of those those kinds of the safaries. Well, at least it does not cost a lot for you to get your highs.

  21. Quote Mr.Daniels,
    ” Ruel Daniels
    Feb 23rd, 2008 at 10:57 am
    Harry Williamn your thinking is as disjointed as its literary reelection. From a pedestal of vacuity you proceed to issue forth the kind of dogmatic drivel expected from concretized aimless cognitive wanderings. Have a ball happy. I forgot to take into account the psychotropic effect of those those kinds of the safaris. Well, at least it does not cost a lot for you to get your highs.”
    Thank you for your kind comments but it is a sad day when you submit the above as a reply to the direct and very relevant question to you:” Where has all the money gone… money in the amount of well over
    $US 55,000,000,000.0 of oil revenues collected by the PNM Government of TNT under the Dr.Eric Williams ( the so called Father of our nation etc )….where has the money gone and why is their no accounting for it and is the same very thing going to happen tot eh $US billions which we are now collecting in oil revenues with oil riding the
    $US100.00 a barrel horse ?
    The truth is this Mr.Daniels,if all of your writings does not lead to the discovery of the ” Missing
    $US billions of dollars which disappeared all your writings are equal to a ” fart in the wind” it comes along and ” makes a loud noise and a big stink ” and as suddenly as it came screamed and smelled ” it vanishes in the wind to nowhere manifest and it is like it was never ever here!

    You dare not ever touch that ” billion dollar disappearance” because you afraid of the Powers that be but if you sneak the information to me and it is credible I shall shout it from the mountain tops to the fish markets to the street corners of TNT from Laventille to Caroni to Carenage to Belmont to Sangre Grande to Tunapuna to Princess Town to Morgan …every which where because I am,unlike you,Mr.Daniels,the Fearless TNT Republican who is not afraid of a bunch of thieves and con artist wearing suits and brandishing degrees!
    Check you grammar,spelling and your doubled words ?
    never write in anger Mr.Daniels unless it is righteous anger like the anger you should have against the ” disapperance of Billions of US dollars of TNT’s 1973 etc oil money!”
    You do seem content to dance around the subject what in the world are you afraid of ? Losing your PNM connections perhaps ?

  22. in respose o your article giving it all away, i am in total agreement with you.the current prime minister mr patrick manning,does not care about this country our beutiful democratic t&t has now become an authocratic jail house for innocent people we fear our lives while the man who claimed he could help us is planning his way in conquering all he can for himself an destroying his people.i hate that man patrick

  23. So is this 10 percent to 90 percent ratio similar with all foreign oil companies in our country?

    Do they all come here, suck our oil, keep roughly 90 percent of the profits and leave us with 10?

  24. Ted:
    That is a question that the opposition should be asking instead of playing the fool in parliament. They should be demanding transparency on everything that has to do with government contracts.

    I have this gut feeling that if the arrangements with those oil & gas companies should be made public as it should, a lot of people will have to run away.

    Stop asking and start demanding accountability from your politicians. They are not Gods but servants of the people.

Comments are closed.