Jamaica’s Petrocaribe commercial agreement with Venezuela has been going through a very difficult period for over a year now – much longer than previously known to the public.
In 2016, oil imports from the South American country dwindled from USD$325-million to just USD$42-million, forcing Jamaica to pay up-front the full price for most of its oil bought on the world market.
The revelation came from State Minister of Finance, Fayval Williams, on Nationwide at Five Tuesday evening.
Is PetroCaribe dead, or in its dying embers?
That’s the pressing question following the revelation by the State Minister last evening, that oil imports under PetroCaribe have been drastically reduced for over a year now.
The first hint of any trouble didn’t come until two weeks ago when Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith made this revelation.
Based on that report, Nationwide News calculated that Jamaica would have to find an additional $37-billion this fiscal year to pay for oil up front on the world market since Petrocaribe allows the country to defer much of the cost.
State Minister Williams initially challenged those numbers, saying that the additional cost to Jamaica this year would only be $3-billion.
But that’s because what wasn’t known to the public, was that imports from Petrocaribe had already dwindled dramatically since the beginning of last year.
In this exchange with Cliff Hughes on Nationwide at Five last evening, Mrs. Williams revealed that Jamaica went from importing 7-million barrels of oil from Venezuela in 2015 to just 1-million in 2016.
And that’s likely to dip to half-a-million barrels this year, as Nationwide News reported yesterday.
Minister Williams admitted that the decline from Venezuela resulted in a large increase to the country’s oil import bill last year.
Using last year’s average exchange rate, that’s about JMD$37.5-billion, the same figure Nationwide News reported yesterday. But the State Minister would not concede that PetroCaribe is practically dead.
She says it’s just going through a bad phase.