– says circumstances surrounding renegotiated oil contract ‘murky’While the Government has announced plans to set up a national oil company where Guyanese will be allowed the opportunity to own shares in that company, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo claimed that there are several issues in relation to this and other issues which are still not clear.Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman told the National Assembly during a special sitting of the Natural Resources Committee that this will not only enable them to benefit directly from the oil and gas sector, but locals may even be able to bid and have part of a concession.Trotman said the idea is that the company will be able to issue shares – as BanksOpposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoDIH, etc – so ordinary Guyanese can access those and for persons who have the means to go beyond that would be able to bid and have a part of a concession. He also highlighted that countries getting into the business of oil and gas are nothing new, using neighbouring Brazil’s State-owned company, Petrobras, as a well-known example.But the Opposition Leader told a news conference on Thursday that if a national oil company is to be set up to sell shares to Guyanese; that company will have to be vested with some assets. “What are the assets they are going to vest the company with? Are they going to vest the company that they are setting up for us to buy shares in Guyanese with the remaining oil blocks?” Jagdeo questioned.If that is not the case, Jagdeo has now questioned whether Government will give the remaining oil blocks out to other people. The former President said that based on comments made by senior Government officials, the public is now being told that Guyanese may be able to bid against some foreign company.“It is very confusing, because on one hand we have a moratorium, no commitment to the auction. Now he is saying that Guyanese will be able to bid against foreigners and he is saying that Guyanese can own shares in a company. They are very different things,” the economist added.Jagdeo also made reference to several news reports which speak to Government stating that they plan to issue a moratorium on remaining oil blocks. But Government also spoke about issuing new licences upon acquiring the services of some international law firms.“Is he (Raphael Trotman) saying that there is a moratorium until they get these firms to come and negotiate the contracts, or is he saying there is a moratorium period? And when the international advisers come, will they be tendering or auctioning the blocks. He did not give an answer to that. So the negotiation of contracts is one thing with the international law firms but they are still silent on theNatural Resources Minister Raphael Trotmanbig question on whether they will auction future blocks or not,” Jagdeo observed.According to Jagdeo, if one is to take into account the suggestions being made Guyanese will most likely want to get shares in the company. But there are still some answered questions.“What are the assets they are going to vest into that company? If you auction the oil blocks now what would the company own as assets. What are we buying shares in a hallowed company, a company that doesn’t have value? It is utterly confusing. If you look at the answers given.”ContractMeanwhile, Jagdeo pointed out that Trotman admitted that Government initiated the renegotiation of the ExxonMobil contract on the basis of threats made to Guyana’s territorial integrity by Venezuela. “You did not need a new contract to keep Exxon in that geographic area… ExxonMobil had already found oil, they were going to drill in any case in that same location,” he said.PPP/C parliamentarian Odinga Lumumba who chaired that meeting drilled the Minister on several other issues in relation to the sector, but also touched specifically on controversial clauses in the oil contract for which Jagdeo said was not addressed significantly and there was also no clarity.The Opposition Leader declared that the circumstances surrounding the signing of a renegotiated contract with ExxonMobil remain very murky based on the Trotman’s explanations.“All of Guyana was hoping that the Minister would explain some of the very contentions clauses and how they managed to find themselves in the contract. I must say I was disappointed,” Jagdeo stated. Another issue that caught the attention of the Opposition Leader is that fact that there is “no paper trail” regarding the Government’s engagement with ExxonMobil on significant matters.Jagdeo also explained that the announcement made by Trotman in relation to the hiring of an international law firm to help with the negotiations of future oil contracts, is something they have called for before. “We have been saying that we need to get the best people in the room,” noting that the Government also ignored the advice of its own Petroleum Advisor, Dr Jan Mangal on the same matter.