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A Huge Oil Find Wouldn’t Change Life For Bahamians!

BY THE NASSAU GUARDIAN

Dear Editor,

Bahamas Petroleum Company continues to roll out its “friendly Bahamian face”, otherwise known as James Smith, to parrot the dodgy slogans by CEO Simon Potter and the rest of the outside interests looking to make a quick buck by striking oil in The Bahamas.

Smith, like Potter, claims that finding oil would have a huge impact on The Bahamas. He says it could improve our standard of living and even prevent starvation.

This is a load of nonsense.

By BPC’s own estimate, even if they are fantastically successful, it could mean $5 billion in revenue for The Bahamas over the next 20 years. That’s about $250 million a year, or roughly what it costs us to run the Department of Education from January to December.

That’s right. Just one government department. Admittedly a big department, but still it represents only a tiny slice of our annual budget, which runs around $3 billion every year. Added to which, we are now $9 billion in debt and counting.

In other words, absolute best case scenario: BPC will give us the equivalent of 1/36th of our national debt per year. Far less than the amount by which the debt grows each year. In fact, I’m not sure it would even cover the interest payments.

And we all know that there is very little chance of this best case scenario happening. Much more likely, BPC will find just enough oil to dribble a few million into the treasury from time to time. Remember, they are paying us royalties IF AND ONLY IF they outperform their projections each year. And guess who gets to set the projections.

What are we being forced to risk in return? A tourism industry worth $1.3 billion a year which is responsible for 50 percent of the jobs in this country. In other words, everything we have. Our livelihood and our children’s future.

But while even a huge oil find won’t improve life for most Bahamians by any noticeable measure, one group’s circumstances will change dramatically for the better.

Simon Potter and crew, including James Smith who is a director and shareholder in BPC, will all become fantastically rich by putting our economy and society in grave danger.

That is what this deal is really all about: making money for them and leaving us, the Bahamian people, saddled with all the risk.

Make no mistake, this was a case of “our interests versus their profit” from the beginning. We should remember that they have a major vested interest whenever they speak to us of the benefits for Bahamians.

Because remember, the well they are proposing to drill now is not for extraction. In order to generate any revenue for The Bahamas at all, BPC will have to be allowed to follow up by drilling multiple wells, perhaps dozens, at multiple locations within five different license areas. And if anything goes wrong at any one of those sites, it could be the end of our tourism product overnight.

Then, we would become a fully-fledged petrostate, a client country at the mercy of BPC, with no choice but to rely on the company for its little payments here and there in order to survive. This is the sad reality for many impoverished countries with oil in Africa and Central America. Perhaps they had no choice, but we do.

We have the highest per capita income in the Caribbean precisely because of our ability to commercialize the natural beauty and abundance of this country and make it highly lucrative.

Destroy that beauty and you destroy our advantage. And then we will be just another failed state to be exploited by parasitical multinational companies while our quality of living tanks and environment continues to be poisoned.

Regards,

Ricardo Johnson

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