PM Challenges Trinidad & Tobago to Offer Better Fuel Alternative to CARICOM
Contact: Prime Minister's Press Secretary
Monday, January 16, 2006 - Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony has challenged the Government of Trinidad & Tobago to summon the will to do more to offer better fuel alternatives to its CARICOM neighbours, rather than dissuade them from taking up Venezuela's offer of cheaper oil through the PetroCaribe initiative.
Trinidad & Tobago's Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who is the new Chairman of CARICOM, last week said in Guyana that while the Venezuelan initiative had “distinct negatives” for his country, it could be even more dangerous for CARICOM states seeking fuel supplies on soft terms.
Mr Manning also threatened that should the thirteen CARICOM member-states that have indicated interest in the Venezuelan initiative cease buying oil from Trinidad & Tobago to enter into an agreement that eventually falters, Trinidad & Tobago may not be willing to do business with them.
Said PM Manning: “If ever countries wish to come back, they may very well find themselves in a position where Trinidad & Tobago has no products to supply.”
Asked by a local reporter for a response to the Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister's comments, the St. Lucia Prime Minister noted: “Prime Minister Manning's comments are consistent with what he said at the CARICOM Summit here last July – that he realises that there will be challenges for Trinidad & Tobago.”
“But,” PM Anthony added, “the fact is that he must understand that these countries are reeling under pressure brought to bear on their economies by the volatility of oil prices, while we all have to purchase fuel from Trinidad & Tobago at world market prices.”
He said there was an alternative to the present position adopted by the Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister.
Said the St. Lucia Prime Minister: “Rather than Trinidad & Tobago suggesting that they are incapable, or that they are unable to do anything about the high prices we are forced to pay, they should rethink that position.
“Notwithstanding that the oil industry in Trinidad & Tobago is owned by private sector interests, the Government can work out special arrangements for the OECS and the rest of CARICOM.”
Dr Anthony explained the rationale behind Trinidad & Tobago's CARICOM neighbours seeking other alternatives. He said: “These countries have been driven to accept the PetroCaribe agreement, not just because it's attractive, but because Trinidad & Tobago is not providing any alternative to them.”
According to the St. Lucia Prime Minister: “It is not easy to understand why the average driver in the Eastern Caribbean must pay between $10 and $11 per gallon of gas, when it only costs about $5 or $6 in Trinidad & Tobago – especially in the context of a Single Market and Economy, where there is a general expectation of equality of treatment across the region.”
Dr Anthony was of the view that “Trinidad & Tobago must do some very serious thinking.”
He said: “They cannot have their cake and eat it. They cannot have a captive market and not reach out to help them in their hour of need. It simply will not do.”
He said he knew his Trinidad & Tobago counterpart “has been a great friend of the region, his government has advanced the cause of integration in the region, he is committed and he has given generously.”
“But,” Prime Minister Anthony continued, “on this petroleum issue, I don't think St. Lucia can agree with him, because I do believe that if government really wants to do it, they can create an arrangement that will ease the plight of these islands.”
“They must summon the will to do so,” he urged.
Last week, Prime Minister Anthony also restated St. Lucia's interest in the PetroCaribe agreement after it was attacked by a former St. Lucia Prime Minister.
Responding to claims by former Prime Minister Sir John Compton that by embracing the agreement with Venezuela, St. Lucia and other CARICOM member-states may anger Washington, PM Anthony reiterated that “St. Lucia is a sovereign country” and that its Government “reserves the right to pursue initiatives, once they are in the interest of the people of St. Lucia.”
He noted that several US cities had taken advantage of the PetroCaribe Agreement “to provide cheaper fuel available to their citizens.”
Consequently, the St. Lucia Prime Minister asked: “If US cities can make use of the Venezuela oil initiative, why shouldn't St. Lucia enjoy the benefits of cooperation with and assistance from Venezuela?”
He also noted that “St. Lucia is not alone, as several other CARICOM states are also making use of the facility”,
Meanwhile, the St. Lucia Government's Energy Conservation Task Force, which has responsibility for issues relating to the PetroCaribe agreement, is due to meet with the Venezuelans later this month for more discussions.
St. Lucia is one of the 13 CARICOM member-states that have indicated interest in the PetroCaribe Agreement. Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago did not sign the agreement in Puerto Cruz, Venezuela, last year, but Jamaica has proceeded to implement it.
Under the agreement, provisions are made for financing mechanisms and compensation, which include long-term and short-term financing, deferred payment and energy efficiency.
According to its terms, Venezuela is also offering technical cooperation to support the creation of state agencies in countries not possessing qualified state institutions for this purpose.
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