‘Oil deal not good for Barbados’
The PetroCaribe oil agreement isn’t cutting it.
That’s according to former Cabinet Minister Clyde Griffith and University lecturer Kai-Ann Skeete.
Speaking on the topic The Impact Of PetroCaribe On Caribbean Development before a standing room only audience at the Walcott Warner Theatre of the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, both took issue with the Venezuelan agreement on energy cooperation, with Griffith going as far as stating that Barbados should not sign on to the deal where a country can pay as much as 70 per cent of its petroleum bill by bartering goods and services to Venezuela.
Skeete, a lecturer in the Master of Science Integration Studies Department of Government Sociology &?Social Work, said signing out for Barbados could have a negative impact on the local private sector but she did not elaborate.
She felt that the regional private sector had a vital role to play in the development of the region and, more so, the CARICOM Single Market &?Economy (CSME).
Skeete said that PetroCaribe’s oil is neither cheaper nor offered at discounted prices “rather it has been made easier to be bought”.
She said there was the possibility that the agreement would benefit only electricity corporations in some countries.
In a highly charged panel discussion, their views contrasted with those of attorney at law David Comissiong and political analyst Peter Wickham.
A passionate Comissiong hailed the agreement as a forward-looking programme and a major hemisphere-wide integration initiative that Barbados was missing out on, while Wickham took a more centrist stance but was of the view that the PetroCaribe agreement was nothing to be feared.
Griffith, a Cabinet Minister in the Tom Adams-led administration between 1981 and 1985, said he didn’t support PetroCaribe then and has not seen anything now to change his mind.
“When I look back then at the kind of interest where you have 60 per cent that you could pay for a consumerable commodity, oil, and postpone 40 per cent with interest payments, when we calculated, the former minister of Energy at the time and I worked out what it would cost Barbados – by now, we would be faced with $2.4 billion in interest commitments.
“I can understand why the smaller countries in the Caribbean would want to have this kind of benefit where [they don’t] have to pay 100 per cent on delivery because most of those countries have serious foreign exchange issues.
“I don’t believe that . . . Barbados should be looking at participating in PetroCaribe as an oil deal. In the first place, we have a stronger foreign exchange position than most of those countries and we can right now afford to pay for our oil imports,” he said.
Griffith, executive director of the Barbados Renewable Energy Association, said the focus should be on a renewable energy platform.
Comissiong said that any right-thinking person could see there were tremendous benefits in becoming part of the PetroCaribe economic zone. That Venezuela was willing to share its precious petroleum resource with all of the countries in the Central America and Caribbean area “in a way in which it guarantees the development of our countries is remarkable and is something that we would want to see replicated right arcoss the world”. he said.
Venezuela’s Ambassador to Barbados Jose Gomez Febres and general manager of PetroCaribe, Luis Rivas, indicated that Barbados was missing out on housing, environmental and agricultural benefits by not signing on to the PetroCaribe oil agreement.
Rivas, like Comissiong, expressed the view that Barbados should join the list of 18 Caribbean states that have signed the deal with Venezuela to purchase oil at preferential prices.
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur had made it clear that if the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was returned to office in the recent general election, he would have signed on.