RUBiS read riot act, may leave Antigua
The Antigua and Barbuda government on Wednesday said it had no problem if the French-owned RUBIS gas company decides to leave the island, following moves to deny it monopolising the retail sector in the country.
RUBiS has written to gas station owners there indicating that it would not be renewing their leases in the New Year, a situation that has been denounced by the Gaston Browne administration.
Speaking on state-owned ABS television, Prime Minister Browne said his administration would welcome the move by RUBiS to pull out of the country over the issue.
"If we have investors - so-called foreign investors - who are pursuing their own profit motives at the detriment of our people, then it is time for them to leave," he said.
"Wherever there is a vacuum, someone will fill it, but it cannot be a situation where their policies are exclusively about profits," he said. "Not that they are not making any profits; they are saying they are not making enough."
The government has "literally read the riot act to them", Browne told television viewers, adding that "when it comes to defending the interest of the people of this country, we do not relent".
He said RUBiS has sought to increase its per-gallon margin in the past.
"The reality is that we have had a number of gas station operators in the country over the last four five decades and it has provided the operators and their families with a livelihood and to allow a foreign company, because they are trying to increase their profit, to displace these individuals will not happen," he said.
"We have made it abundantly clear in very strong terms and we recognise at the heart of this issue is the fact they have been pushing my government to increase the margins and clearly it will be unacceptable for us to allow them to increase the margins and then pass it on to consumers and increase petrol prices," Browne added.
Last week, Telecommunications Minister Melford Nicholas said Cabinet was concerned about the RUBiS issue "in the sense that these local businesses and the retail trade of petroleum is something that has been reserved for a very long time ... for local businesses."
He said that Cabinet "views this as a troublesome development from the standpoint that what this would in fact and most likely generate is a monopoly in the distribution of petroleum products".