Letters to the Editor: Who wants to be a petrostate?

Letters to the Editor: Who wants to be a petrostate?

Dear Editor,

“Petrostate: derogatory, ‘a small oil-rich country in which institutions are weak and wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of a few.’” — Collins English Dictionary

A cursory perusal of the Internet adds further details.

A petrostate is a nation whose economy is heavily dependent on the extraction and export of oil or natural gas, where political and economic power are held by a small elite, corruption is rife and political institutions are not accountable to the public and leaders tend to be autocratic. The economy tends to be weak and overly reliant on the oil business, with all its unpredictability and price fluctuations. They also tend to be socially backwards and lack social and political freedoms and where democracy is either non-existent or in decline.

Is this the vision of the future that Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) has in mind for us?

Because if — whether by a single catastrophic accident or gradually through the small leaks and spills which are a normal part of offshore drilling — this company ruins our unrivalled tourism product, we will have nothing to fall back on but oil.

And for anyone who doubts that our society could backslide in this way towards failed state status, there are many examples of once-thriving and vibrant democracies that degenerated due to circumstances beyond their control. A number of them are petrostates. Are we going to be the latest addition to that list?

BPC directors and executives never tire of talking about a sovereign state’s “right” to know if it can exploit fossil fuels. This is misdirection and sleight of hand at its best. It is not “we the Bahamian people” who are trying to discover anything. It is this foreign company and its foreign shareholders, with a few Bahamian shares in a tiny mutual fund thrown in just for appearances.

What a sovereign state does actually have the right to do, is protect its economy and natural resources from exploitation by outsiders. It has the right to determine its own course for the future and not have its options taken away.

We, the people of the Bahamas, constitute and embody the sovereign state that gained independence in 1973 and it is BPC, a foreign entity, that is threatening our right to self-determination.

Thank you,

L Lewis