Successive governments in Barbados have been reluctant to engage the people in dialogue, whether about projects on the go or general information. If one did not know better the belief that MPs are the masters and the people the servants would gain currency. Unlike the British system which has ‘Question Time’ – a system which affords members of parliament the opportunity to ask government ministers questions in public – Barbadians have to rely on the minister or Prime Minister to cough up information when he or she feel so inclined. The foregoing takes into consideration the system of government we practice is modelled after the Westminster System.
BU selects one issue to illustrate the point. After the Hague Tribunal ruled in the Barbados/Trinidad Maritime dispute in 2006, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) decided to move full steam ahead with an Offshore Exploration and Production Program. About 70,000 square kilometres were divided into stripes and several oil drilling companies were invited to bid for the rights to explore in the deep waters off the Northeast coast of Barbados. The rest as they say is history.
The Arthur government although bullish on the project at the time, the approach contrast starkly with the lukewarm approach of the current government. Our best research turned up a vague response by Minister responsible Darcy Boyce who blamed the downturn in the global economy and estimated that benefits from oil exploration may take up to ten years. In the meantime Guyana is moving full steam ahead with its oil exploration program. International oil companies REPSOL and CGX have been engaged by the Guyana government.
BU offers a disclosure on this subject. We believe the potential for harm to our ecosystem by growing an offshore oil industry should be of concern. No doubt they are measures as a country we would have to take to manage attendant risks. However it does not explain the lack of energy by this government to advance the project.
The prospect of creating a new level of prosperity for the country should have been mouth watering for any government given our dependence on fossil fuel. It is BU’s understanding that the average citizen would have had the opportunity to own shares in the ownership company without any risk of financial exposure. The deal would have been structured that associated exploration cost would have been absorbed by the drilling company. However, if oil was found, a negotiated percentage would have flowed into the coffers of Barbados. We can only speculate if the government did not take its foot off the gas we would have been well advanced in the exploration process.
It should be obvious that BU’s understanding of the project status conflicts with what Minister Darcy Boyce has offered as the reason for the delay. Where should the people turn for answers about oil exploration in Barbados?