Energy Minister Dr. Andrew Wheatley says Jamaica is in a stronger position this year to buy Venezuela’s stake in the Petrojam oil refinery.
Dr. Wheatley says he’s received an updated valuation on the 49-percent shares.
Sources indicate to Nationwide News that the value has now fallen from the USD$80-million at which the shares were valued last summer.
This, as the Venezuelan economy has worsened, and the country finds itself in greater need of foreign exchange.
Speaking with Dennis Brooks on Nationwide This Morning, Dr. Wheatley said the Jamaican government would be willing to fast-track the purchase.
Dr. Wheatley says the government has already allocated funds in the upcoming budget to make the purchase.
However, while he revealed that Venezuela has acknowledged receipt of the offer, he wouldn’t say whether they have indicated a willingness to sell.
During a sitting of the House of Representatives last November, Dr Wheatley revealed that an executive order by US President Donald Trump — blocking entities from doing business with Venezuela — is affecting Petrojam’s operations.
The order prohibits US companies from doing business with Venezuelan companies.
It’s led to big banks in the US being reluctant to finance Petrojam’s oil purchases on the international market, due to the company’s part-Venezuelan ownership.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wheatley says Venezuela hasn’t lived up to its commitment to upgrade the Petrojam refinery.
This, despite several commitments, including one as recently as February last year, to begin the upgrade. The upgrade is expected to cost between USD$850-million and USD$1-billion.
The expansion would increase Petrojam’s capacity from 36,000 to 50,000 barrels of oil per day – enough to meet Jamaica’s energy needs.
However, Dr. Wheatley would not say what would now happen to those plans to upgrade the refinery, with the anticipated repurchase of Venezuela’s shares.