The Vampire Mentality of Multinationals
Couva South MP Kelvin Ramnath’s condemnation of the Government’s move to renew the privilege of multinational oil and gas companies involved in offshore exploration is well founded and should be vigorously supported. It is common knowledge that Multinational Corporations, particularly those involved in the energy sector, suck more than oil and gas from the host countries, they suck the very spirit and the lifeblood of working people. With the exception of a handful of individuals, every “Third World” country in which MNC’s operate are left more improvised and environmentally devastated than before their arrival. In his continuing struggle to make Shell accountable for the grinding poverty of the Ogoni people in Nigeria - despite their tremendous oil wealth - and the destruction of their environment among other issues, activist/writer Ken Saro- Wiwa, stated from his prison cell:
We all stand before history. I am a man of peace, of ideas. Appalled by the denigrating poverty of my people who live on a richly endowed land, distressed by their political marginalization and economic strangulation, angered by the devastation of their land, their ultimate heritage, anxious to preserve their right to life and to a decent living, and determined to usher to this country as a whole a fair and just democratic system which protects everyone and every ethnic group and gives us all a valid claim to human civilization, I have devoted my intellectual and material resources, my very life, to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I cannot be blackmailed or intimidated. I have no doubt at all about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Nor imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory. “
Despite the justice of his cause and his reasonable demands, writer/activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists were hanged in Port Harcourt, Nigeria on November 10, 1995 by the Nigerian military government in collaboration with Shell.
This unfortunately is not an isolated case. There is no shortage of examples globally, in which MNCs take more than they give and leave behind environmental devastation, corruption and death. Soudan and Bhopal immediately comes to mind. The questions are: how do Trinbagonians avoid a similar fate? How do we insure that the natural resources of our country are exploited for the benefit of all our citizens and not just the oil and gas companies and a handful of local elites? The answers lie in the old adage which says,” if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish you feed him for life”. The fact is that Trinidad has been a petroleum producing country for far too long to continue to depend of foreign companies to develop our oil and gas resources. The royalties that oil and gas companies pay the government to extract our resources is pocket change when compared to the profits they make from gas, oil and its byproducts. But we don’t need a light to see the sun. What we need is vision to see the future. Our continued dependence on foreign expertise would always leave us vulnerable. We will always have to make compromising arrangements with MNCs in the forms of tax moratoriums and duty-free concessions. Since oil and gas does not spoil and the reserves are estimated to last far into the future, it is not too late to put in place the necessary mechanisms which would allow us to control and develop these resources. In the meantime, we should try and drive a harder bargain, as greater income is essential to the realization our long-term goal. Demanding transparency between the government and MNCs a reasonable as these resources belong to the people of T&T. Transparency would insure that we get value for our resources. If anything, history has taught us that we must look after our own best interest.
I do not know if Vision 2020 includes the ownership and development of the energy sector. If it doesn’t, it’s terribly flawed and desperately in need of tweaking with oil and gas. This is the most lucrative part of our economy; we must take charge of all aspects of it for future prosperity. Failure to do so could sentence countless future generations to a lifetime of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mr. Ramnath, as Black Stalin suggested, “keep the fire burning vampires passing”. Yours is a righteous cause for the greater good.
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