It’s all gas!
Bring the proof!
That was the message Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler sent to Opposition Member of Parliament Mia Mottley in the early hours of yesterday morning after she accused the Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL) of overcharging the Barbados Light & Power Company Limited (BL&P) for fuel and making large profits off the backs of Barbadians.
After clashing with Mottley just before 1 a.m., as he wrapped up the Budget Debate in Parliament, Sinckler challenged the St Michael North East MP to bring proof of her allegation.
In leading off the Opposition’s response to the 2012 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals that Sinckler presented on Wednesday, Mottley claimed Barbados had an arrangement with Trinidad and Tobago’s state-owned oil company Petrotrin under which crude oil from Barbados was processed in the twin-island republic, sent back here and then sold to BL&P at full world market price.
Sinckler said his checks with the BNOCL dispelled the Opposition MP’s claim.
The breakdown of the price for the latest shipment of fuel sold to BL&P on June 13 showed that the cost of US$103 per barrel included: the cost of oil on the Platts energy exchange at US$92.31; a premium of US$3.70; freight at US$3.50; insurance at US$0.20; throughput, or terminal fees, at US$2.50; and ancillary cost of US$0.90, with BNOCL’s margin at US$0.37.
Sinckler’s contention led to a heated exchange between the two, with Mottley rising on points of order to insist that Sinckler was not presenting the full picture.
However, the Minister of Finance responded: “At the end of the day I put the case of the company. I expect that evidence will be forthcoming from [Mottley] to demonstrate and support her contention on this matter.”
Mottley then attempted to make a document of the House a report prepared by Caribbean Energy Partners, including one individual whom she said worked as one of BNOCL’s lead financial officers for more than 12 years and was prepared to go public if necessary.
Her attempt was blanked by Speaker of the House Michael Carrington and Sinckler maintained his position.
“I rest my case on this,” Sinckler said. “I brought the facts of the company, the Honourable Member brought the facts of some groups somewhere . . . giving a secondary analysis, not using primary sources.”
Sinckler insisted that despite Opposition claims that they could give consumers much cheaper fuel prices, the days of cheap oil were long gone.
The minister of finance was equally dismissive of the other counter-proposals, including the creation of a $500 million Tourism Development and Refurbishment Fund, a $25 million sub-fund in the Agricultural Development Fund for investment in greenhouse technologies, refund of monies paid to National Housing Corporation tenants who qualified to receive their houses free, and the reinstatement of two pensions to people who previously benefited.
He said that spending was not feasible in the current economic climate.