CASTRIES, St. Lucia, CMC – Opposition Leader Stephenson King is calling on the St. Lucia government against joining the Venezuelan oil initiative, PetroCaribe, saying it could bring the island into further debt.
"Let's not get involved in this matter, this is not one for the government, as it’s not a situation where fuel is being sold to the country at a cheaper rate. The fuel is being sold at the very rate that we are currently purchasing it from Trinidad or elsewhere," King said.
Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, who recently attended a meeting in Caracas where the PetroCaribe initiative was discussed, said plans were announced to expand the programme under which several Caribbean countries have so far benefited from an estimated US$800 million in investments.
Under the PetroCaribe initiative launched in 2005, countries receive oil from Venezuela on concessionary terms, and although St. Lucia was among regional countries that signed the accord it has not benefitted from the initiative as had Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and St. Kitts- Nevis.
Prime Minister Anthony said he has instructed his energy minister to prepare formal documentation for Cabinet to consider and that St. Lucia cannot remain isolated while hoping and praying that its traditional partners will assist given that they have other agendas.
But King, who said his administration, had serious reservations about the initiative said there remains serious concerns which ought to be addressed before the government makes a decision which it might regret.
"The danger about this issue is that you are given a facility with the administration in Venezuela, where the Government takes responsibility for the importation of fuel. If my memory serves me right you are given five years to settle that debt, it becomes mature after five year.
"During that time the Government can invest that money as it chooses to, on housing, social programmes, they can do anything with it, on the understanding that at anytime the Venezuela government requires payment all they need to do is give 30 days notice," King said.