Examining The PetroCaribe Debt Buyback

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Jamaica will only save 85-million US dollars in the long run, by buying back its Petrocaribe debt.

That’s according to an independent analysis of the deal by Nationwide News.

So, is it the best option for the country at this time?

The government is insisting that it is, while others are questioning the merits of the multi-billion dollar buyout.

The Ministry of Finance has still not released the terms of the PetroCaribe buyback deal.

When Nationwide News spoke with Financial Secretary Devon Rowe this afternoon, he would not disclose the specific amount of PetroCaribe debt that the government is about to purchase.

Nor would he say how much they’re expected to save.

As a result, our calculations are based on a figure of USD$2.9-billion, which, according to CEO of the PetroCaribe Development Fund Dr. Wesley Hughes, is the debt up to December 2014.

Under the deal with Venezuela, Jamaica is repaying that debt at just 1-percent interest per year, over 25 years.

That amounts to USD$29-million in interest payments each year.

After 25 years, the principal plus the interest would amount to USD$3.625-billion.

Nationwide News sought to compare that to the double-bond.

How much would Jamaica end up repaying since the interest rates are between 6 and 7-percent, much higher than PetroCaribe very concessionary rate of 1-percent?

By Nationwide’s calculations, total interest payments would amount to just over $2-billion.

The principal plus the interest over 30 years would amount to $3.54-billion.

That’s not much less than the original amount, a difference of only $85-million at the end of 30 years, or just under $3-million in savings per year.

And in the short term, Jamaica will end up paying nearly 4-times as much interest per year than under PetroCaribe–USD$106-million per year, compared to just USD$29-million currently.

This could put stress on a budget that’s already tight on fiscal space.

So there are pros and cons.

Which outweighs the other depends on who you ask.

The government and supporters of its position cite the immediate reduction of the debt to GDP ratio.

On the other hand, the immediate and drastic increase in annual interest payments is a concern.

And that’s the point being emphasized by the Opposition’s Deputy Spokesperson on Finance, Fayval Williams.

In other words, Jamaica will be spending an extra 77-million US a year in the short term, to save less than USD$3-million a year in the long term.

So is the buyback worth it?

Well, it’s possible that when Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips finally reveals the details, it will be more favorable than it currently appears.