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Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw has said that the Government has to now maximize the benefits of the PetroCaribe Development Fund, by utilizing the money to enhance the country’s economic development.
“We have started off substantially using those (funds) in sort of ‘bail-out’ circumstances where we have used it to bail out Air Jamaica, we have used it to bail out the Clarendon Alumina Production (CAP). As a matter of fact, in this year alone, $3.5 billion have had to go to CAP; $2.1 billion have had to go to Air Jamaica by way of loans to them; and incidentally, the Port Authority of Jamaica has been loaned some money. Just over $1 billion has been loaned to them. The Sugar Company of Jamaica has been receiving a lot of funds over the three-year history of the programme,” Mr. Shaw said.
He was responding to questions posed by the Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Dr. Omar Davies, in the House of Representatives yesterday (July 15).
Mr. Shaw noted that in making good use of PetroCaribe funds, “we want to ensure first of all that we are building up surpluses that can be used in areas that are sustainable and that are going to give us the returns and that can also be used in aggressively advancing the economic development of the country.”
“There are certain areas that have not been touched yet such as renewable energy.we have to calibrate, and ensure that the productive sector gets its share of funding from it. We have started at the National Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank of Jamaica Limited. So far this year, an amount of $752 million has been loaned to the Ex-Im Bank at an attractive rate of about five per cent interest rate for them to unlend in that process,” the Finance Minister informed.
Mr. Shaw noted further that “once we get rid of these loss-making entities, once we get rid of the Sugar Company of Jamaica, we divest Air Jamaica, we are therefore able to stop using these funds for those kinds of bail outs.”
“It will be important now, that we really take a hard look at how we spend the PetroCaribe dollars in order to ensure that it is on a sure-footed and sustainable path of investments,” Mr. Shaw added.
PetroCaribe is a cooperation mechanism on energy between developing nations based on a principle of solidarity and differential treatment towards the lesser developed nations and those without energy resources, while contributing to offset the effects of the rising price of oil.
The 16 members of PetroCaribe are Venezuela, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Dominican Republic, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Haiti, and Nicaragua.