Minister with responsibility for Public Service, Information, Broadcasting, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, Doctor James Fletcher, has asserted that Venezuela’s Petrocaribe initiative has not impacted this country’s economy.
“Saint Lucia has never taken a gallon of petroleum products from Venezuela,” Fletcher told reporters.
He was responding to reported comments from US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central America and the Caribbean, Juan Gonzalez.
Gonzalez has been quoted as saying that some Caribbean countries are running into fiscal problems now that the padding provided by Petrocaribe is no longer there.
Doctor James Fletcher stated that he could not answer for other Islands that have invested heavily in Petrocaribe.
But he disclosed that in the case of Saint Lucia, the initiative has not impacted the local economy at all.
Fletcher explained that it is left to be seen what happens in Venezuela.
He observed that the economic situation in that country is difficult.
“I think at the end of the day what we want is democracy and the will of the people to prevail and however that manifests itself is something we will always respect,” the Minister said.
According to Fletcher, Saint Lucia entered Petrocaribe late.
He recalled that although Saint Lucia was one of the early countries to agree to the arrangement, the previous administration here did not avail itself of that opportunity.
Fletcher noted that when the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) came back into office in 2011, it re-established relations with Petrocaribe.
However he revealed that it was difficult trying to sort out logistical arrangements.
“There were one or two areas that we wanted to enter – for example the supply of fuel to our ships in harbor,” Fletcher said, adding that Saint Lucia believed that was an area of competitive advantage.
But he observed that the market here for petroleum products is different.
By way of example he noted that in Saint Vincent, the electricity company is owned by the government which can make decisions on where the company buys fuel.
He said the Saint Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC), is a private company.
Under Venezuela’s Petrocaribe initiative, only 60 per cent has to be paid upfront for oil purchased. Member countries pay more upfront, the higher the global price of oil.
With Venezuela currently in the grip of a financial crisis, there are some who predict that Petrocaribe will collapse.