Posted on

The PetroCaribe Agreement: An Obsession or Genuine Concern?


Fri, Feb 6, 2015

There is little doubt that the most talked-about issue during the recently concluded Budget debate was our country’s involvement in Petrocaribe; an arrangement in which we access fuel products from Venezuela on concessionary terms. All those Parliamentarians who had some knowledge of the Agreement, or at least some opinion of it, informed or otherwise, made reference to that topic during their contributions to the debate.{{more}}

It is a matter on which both sides of the House of Assembly are deeply divided. Fundamentally, the Opposition insists that the Agreement and the arrangements therein are not subject to Parliamentary control and that they ought to be. The Government counters by saying that the terms of the Agreement are contained in a public document; Parliament has been informed about the Agreement from time to time and that the arrangement is a novel and creative developmental tool.

But there seems to be much more to the argument than the matter of Parliamentary control. Doubt is being raised over the value of the Agreement itself, not only by the political Opposition, but by others around the region and internationally. It is often difficult to separate genuine critical comment from the chorus of those who are hostile to the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and are intent on undermining Venezuela’s relations with Caribbean and Latin American states.

This latter factor has clouded much of the truthful discussion on the Petrocaribe and its value to countries like ours. Indeed the recent trend of falling oil prices internationally has spurred further commentary about the Agreement.

We agree that there should be greater Parliamentary scrutiny of the Agreement, as any project which incurs significant long term debt for the people of this country should have Parliamentary approval. It is not enough to say that the Agreement is available on the Internet for all to read.

That being said, it is undeniable that Petrocaribe Agreement has been of tremendous value to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines as a whole, not just to the Government. The debt being incurred must be weighed against the present day value of the very generous terms to small island states including St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Politically and ideologically, one may disagree with the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, but to fall into the trap of mixing political preferences with the developmental needs of St Vincent and the Grenadines is quite another matter.

In addition, it is easy to be led down the line of those who, for their own purposes, are so intent on undermining the Venezuelan government, that they lose every sense of objectivity. Venezuela seems to have supplanted Cuba on the list of so-called “enemies of the West”, and we shoot ourselves in the foot by succumbing to such propaganda.

What should we do? Tear up the Petrocaribe Agreement? Renounce its provisions which provide valuable breathing space for our economic development and real economic and social benefits for our people?

It is time for a more mature appraisal of our realities and a more informed approach to complex international issues.