By: Attorney Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth (Fort Lauderdale)
The Caribbean has attracted foreign interest for hundreds of years. Some of the earliest explorations involved the quest to find the city of gold, “El Dorado.” The gold eluded the European nations but they did colonize the region to harvest sugar. The British, mainly, imported Africans for slave labor and, after abolition, Indians for indentured servant labor.
The determining factor for foreign involvement in the Caribbean appeared to have always been linked to economic profitability. And so when cane sugar in the Caribbean was replaced by European beet sugar in international markets, colonial powers were less interested in the region and allowed many nations to govern their own affairs independently. Recent developments suggest that the tide may be turning once again to dominant outside influence in the Caribbean.
Perhaps the most notable example of foreign interest in the West Indies is Guyana’s promising oil projections. ExxonMobile, America’s largest oil company, initially discovered crude oil off of Guyana’s coast in 2015. Since then, there have been 16 extraordinary oil finds. Five of the six largest oil discoveries in 2019 were in Guyana.
Exxon and Guyana’s oil deal raises concerns as to whether the contract is disproportionately in favor of Exxon to the extreme disadvantage of Guyana and its people. Guyana is estimated to receive a below-average share in oil production in the amount of $55 billion dollars.
The parties entered into the oil contract and three days later Exxon announced a major discovery. Some claim that Exxon purposely withheld evidence of the find to minimize Guyana’s negotiating power. The deal was also made hastily during heightened tensions with Venezuela over the Venezuela-Guyana border, with hopes that Exxon’s presence would deter Venezuela’s attempts to expand their borders. Renegotiation, accordingly, would attract an unprecedented amount of investors and opportunities for equitable negotiations.
Similarly, in Trinidad, the oil and gas industry reigns. In the 1990s, the oil sector shifted to mostly natural gas. An energy expert opined that the future of the nation is natural gas: “In the long run, gas has more potential for value-added. Trinidad is sitting on many wells that are gas prone rather than oil rich.” Moreover, the Minister of Energy announced in September that the Broadside well in TTDAA3 will be the deepest drill depth in Trinidad. The announcement was important because it highlights progress in Trinidad’s hydrocarbon exploration.
Trinidad’s oil industry initially started with American dominance and British rule. Once free, Trinidad’s economy boomed when it controlled its own industry. On the other hand, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran are still reeling from American and European interference as a means to control the oil in the Middle East. This should serve as a lesson for Trinidad’s hydrocarbon exploration, and also Guyana as Guyana emerges as a rising oil producing nation.
The Caribbean, the Indian Diaspora, and the United States
Neighboring nations are also likely to benefit from the emerging energy industries in Guyana and Trinidad. Investors, including large hotel chains, have been prospecting for lucrative opportunities. Increased tourism in Guyana can in turn increase interest in tourism for neighboring countries. In addition, Caribbean businesses throughout the West Indies and United States could see an increase in value by virtue of their proximity to and insight of Caribbean culture and economy including roti shops, promoters, DJs, tour guides, and social media businesses.
Therefore, both businesses in the Caribbean and businesses owned by Caribbeans/Caribbean descendants are now encouraged to solidify their legal rights in order to protect the value of their business in the future.
Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. is a business attorney. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minor degree in History that focused on the slavery and indentured servitude eras, a minor degree in Criminology, and a Juris Doctor degree.
MDGR Law, P.A.