Partners seek to strengthen Petrocaribe agreement
Minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Phillip Paulwell says the PetroCaribe Agreement with Venezuela will be strengthened to provide more benefits for Jamaicans.
Paulwell was addressing a special Jamaica House press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister's Western Regional Office in Montego Bay on Friday, ahead of the two-day 10th Anniversary Commemorative Summit of the PetroCaribe Agreement which got under way yesterday.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro will co-chair the meeting at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
Several heads of government and state, energy ministers and other ministers of government from the signatory countries will be in attendance.
Paulwell said not only would Jamaica continue to benefit from the historic deal that was signed 10 years ago, but that the provisions would be broadened, coming out of the talks.
"We are expecting a deepening, not a lessening, of this agreement," Paulwell said.
Among the areas that will be looked at is the trade compensation mechanism, which allows for exports of goods and services to Venezuela, in lieu of cash, to offset the oil debt.
Since December 2013, Jamaica, through Caribbean Cement Company Ltd, has been sending shipments of clinker to Venezuela, under the trade arrangement.
Paulwell said he expected that the arrangement would be discussed at the summit meeting and possibly broadened.
Agreement still important
Paulwell told journalists that even though the price of oil has fallen on the world market, the PetroCaribe Agreement "is as important today as when it was signed 10 years ago".
"For countries like Jamaica that have been able to defer the full payment of oil transactions, it represents a significant savings in the outlay of foreign exchange on our energy purchases, and it has also enabled us to use savings from our PetroCaribe Development Fund to do national projects," he pointed out.
Responding to a question as to whether social programmes in Jamaica have benefited from the savings derived from PetroCaribe, Paulwell stated that social development initiatives was a condition laid out by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, under whose leadership the agreement was signed.
"From the very inception, this was something Mr Chavez insisted on," Paulwell said.
"We have spent money on education and the upgrading of our schools. We have removed pit latrines and have replaced them with modern facilities. We have spent money on health care and also on infrastructural development ... our roads and highways. We have managed the PetroCaribe Development Fund wisely and have helped our social programmes throughout the country."