Do Church Leaders Have a Hidden Agenda on Oil
There have been some very interesting goings-on in our country recently. Is the church the newly appointed public relations agency for the opposition? If the opposition has learnt nothing else of late it has learnt that whenever a voice is needed to oppose government’s decisions the “new” church is available. Is this the new norm? Has our quiet church mouse become a gun for hire? Gambling, now oil? Hmm.
In our social discussions over the past few days, the church mouse’s vociferous vituperations of Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) were cause for much critical analysis of its possible motives.
The National Citizens Committee, Bahamas Christian Council and the Bahamas Christian Council’s Economic Committee – collectively known as the National Citizens Alliance Coalition (NCAC) – have pounced to the fore masquerading as the voice of the Bahamian people, the church, God and now its new ally, the FNM. The NCAC has forcibly injected itself as mediator between Bahamas Petroleum Company and the Bahamian people in what could possibly be the greatest oil find in this region.
This group (NCAC) has decided that it has been ordained to protect the “financial” interests of the Bahamian public and guard against the conjectured exploitation at the hands of this “foreign oil imperialist”, who by NCAC’s assessment is a dubious venture capitalist company with no oil exploration experience, but with whom they would personally like to do business. Hmm again.
Our understanding from Ingraham’s recent statement is that BPC has in the past been represented by Callenders & Co., Higgs & Johnson and Davis & Co. – three very reputable Bahamian law firms. Based on CEO Simon Potter’s information, their management team has over 30 years of collective experience in oil exploration. What are the blind mice’s credentials in the oil industry that qualify them to act as national negotiators in such complex matters? Yet, they seemingly have a problem with the revenue-sharing portion of the agreement between BPC and the government, which essentially shares profits 50/50 between the oil company and the government.
This now raises many more questions in our social pantheon than can possibly be examined sufficiently in this letter; hence, a possible part two.
We, the large majority of Bahamians not represented by NCAC are asking, no, rather demanding, to be told:
1. Who asked NCAC to negotiate on our behalf?
2. On what authority does NCAC act and what are its real motives?
In order to put things into perspective I must defer to the prime minister’s recent comments on the subject when he said that any discussion on revenue sharing at this point is premature because the first drop of oil has not been extracted yet. He went on to say that the government will examine the revenue sharing protocols between many oil producing countries and the oil companies in order to adopt a system that incorporates international best practices if or when commercially exploitable oil deposits are found. I don’t always agree with the prime minister, but he and I are on the same page with this position.
Let us look a little closer at this issue while we’re at it because NCAC seems to be implying that the purported agreement between BPC and the government is unjust. Oil exploration in The Bahamas began in the 1940s, however no serious drilling activity has occurred for many, many years. Not a single oil company in the world has shown any interest whatsoever in exploring for oil in The Bahamas since the late 1980s. One wonders why? Was it that marine geophysical technology had not developed sufficiently to warrant the substantial financial investment necessary until recently? Or is it that the oil companies considered the likelihood of success too small, and hence the risk of a big monetary loss too great? We do not know. What we do know is that Bahamas Petroleum Company has over the past seven years invested more than $50 million of its own funds into this latest venture.
That is a sizeable investment to risk on an as yet uncertain proposition. If large deposits of oil are not discovered, that would be $50 million of BPC’s money down the flush. If large oil deposits are discovered, all future oil exploration and extraction expenditures will also be borne solely by BPC.
Not one penny comes from the government; yet if success is had The Bahamas would become one of the richest countries in the world on a per capita basis, and every single citizen would benefit directly. Given this viewpoint, it appears to me that a 50/50 revenue sharing arrangement is rather reasonable indeed. In any event, a sovereign government has the right to craft any deal in the manner that it wishes, so long as the other side agrees.
That being the case, the only problem for the time being that I have with the church mouse and its friends is this: We even ain’t find no oil yet an dey kickin’ up all a dis fuss. Man da people just explorin’ an’ y’all trying ta share up da proceeds already? My God, da NCAC dun gone hunting with salt and pepper.
We are now left to wonder, what has so enraged the church mouse, and why? With all of the unattended social ills in our country over the last few years, national issues choking our society and irreverent behavior by pastors and bishops, why now? Why oil? As we continue to dig deeper into this will we find that there is a hidden agenda?
Phew, a lot of cheese is in the air and we smell a mouse.
By: Welly Forbeschurch, corruption, oil drilling