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PetroCaribe fuel debt not $900 million – VINLEC CEO

PetroCaribe fuel debt not $900 million – VINLEC CEO

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The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the St Vincent Electricity Services Ltd (VINLEC) has spoken out against allegations that the Government is being dishonest about St Vincent and the Grenadines’ debt under the PetroCaribe agreement.

Speaking yesterday on We FM’s morning {{more}}radio programme, Thornley Myers said that the country’s debt to PetroCaribe is not $900 million – but is, instead, “in the region” of $160 million, as stated previously by the Prime Minister.

“There is no way whatsoever – by any imagination – that all the fuel that came to St Vincent under the PetroCaribe agreement assigned to VINLEC… could have a debt, as a result of this fuel landing to St Vincent, of $900 million when the cost of that fuel is just about $340 million,” insisted Myers.

His response came in the face of accusations made by Opposition Leader and president of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Arnhim Eustace at a press conference held on Thursday, January 28, at the party’s headquarters.

Accusing the Prime Minister of being dishonest about the PetroCaribe debt and the true figure of SVG’s external debt, Eustace had said: “The PetroCaribe debt is heavy! The Bank of Nova Scotia, their head office in Toronto, had put the PetroCaribe debt at nearly $900 million.”

Myers explained that the first shipment of fuel under the PetroCaribe agreement arrived in SVG on June 13, 2006.

“All of the fuel imported in St Vincent and the Grenadines under the PetroCaribe agreement comes to St Vincent landed assigned to VINLEC. During that period, we have had close to 100 landings.”

According to the VINLEC CEO, total fuel consumption over that period is in excess of 37 million gallons; with prices ranging from $59 per barrel to $169 per barrel. This has resulted in a total of EC$340 million being spent thus far.

He further pointed out that based on these figures, the debt of $160 million is accurate.

“From my figures, that is quite reasonable because if you have imported $340 million of fuel and you have an arrangement where the financial agreement has been in the region of 30 per cent [to]… 60 per cent of the price of a barrel of fuel, you can see that the financial arrangement would be in the region of little less than half of the total cost of fuel imported.”

Myers said that he had not spoken on this matter before because the Prime Minister had addressed it after the issue was raised in the run up to general elections.

“It took on a very political framework,” he noted. “But I still hear it being mentioned, and I was recently approached by someone in the business sector who said to me ‘Well I am concerned about this issue. I know you are involved to some degree in this matter. Could you… tell me what is really the figure?’… I just thought well maybe I should essentially come public with this.”

He also acknowledged that if the case had been that the Government of St Vincent was not fulfilling its contractual responsibilities under the PetroCaribe agreement, it would not still be in said agreement with the government of Venezuela after almost a decade.

“It’s time for us to – wherever we heard that figure ($900 million) – to simply say that clearly it is not the case… If the figure was $900 million then it meant that we would have imported close to $3 billion in fuel under the PetroCaribe agreement.”

Additionally, the VINLEC CEO urged the public to continue to conserve electricity even in the midst of current low oil/fuel prices. (JSV)

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