Guyana (254735)
Credit: Image by Ronny K from Pixabay

Allegations of widespread and organized state corruption have always dogged the Indo-dominated People’s Progressive Party (PPP) whenever it is in government in the Caribbean Community headquarter nation of Guyana, but a damning undercover investigation by American media outfit Vice-News appears to have confirmed deeply entrenched fears about this at the highest levels of state.

Aired on Showtime television on Sunday night, the report provided an amazing insight into how prime state lands are awarded and to whom, who gets the big road and other state projects, and how the deals are settled in cash through a once-trusted middleman Chinese national, now a naturalized Guyanese citizen.

Su Zhjirong, a businessman with investments in mining and other areas, does not appear to know that he was being secretly filmed earlier this year so he lets off on his extremely close relationship with Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo and other top officials boasting that he acts as the middleman or facilitator and Jagdeo enables the success of the operation or investment on his behalf. He says “he will share some of the money with me. If we are doing business together, my boss is not going to receive money directly. It’s going to be a service processing fee.”

For his part, Jagdeo, a former president for more than a decade, admits his extremely close friendship with Su and says that while he does not get directly involved in businesses. “He gets all the support. Su deals with all the agreements. I don’t. The thing is that I am in government, so I assist from the government side,” he said while being filmed.

Until recently, Su had been renting a property from Jagdeo next to his seaside compound and had had unfettered access to Jagdeo. The embattled VP must now vacate the premises and says they are no longer close friends. Su even took the Vice News undercover team to Jagdeo’s residence where they talked about possible investments.

Since finding among the world’s largest offshore oil and gas deposits back in mid-2015, Guyana has been a hotbed for businessmen and women of all stripes, with dozens touching down in the country each day, seeking a piece of the investment pie. Others act as middlemen, government liaison officials and facilitators.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the Guyanese economy will grow by the largest margin globally this year—by at least 50%—thanks to runaway international oil prices and the direct and downstream investments from the oil sector.

American supermajor ExxonMobil is leading the oil production scenario in Guyana producing more than 300,000 barrels of oil from two massive oilfields northeast of the capital, Georgetown. The country is awash with business opportunities, and the estimated 800,000 population in a country the size of Britain or Idaho is growing rapidly with westerners, Cubans, Venezuelans and others. Two more fields are set to come on stream in the next two to three years taking daily production to in excess of 700,000 barrels. Other companies like Repsol of Spain are also conducting exploration drilling near Exxon’s lucrative Stabroek Block and expect runaway success similar to Exxon’s.

As a country, Guyana is slated to make close to $1 billion in direct revenue from oil sales this year, making the country a magnet for all sorts and conditions of ‘investors.’ Even more will flow when the two other fields come on stream and if oil prices remain as high as today, officials say.

The main opposition party Monday expressed alarm at the allegations, calling not only for an independent probe into the broadcast but also for the resignation of Jagdeo, 58.

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