Thu | Feb 20, 2020

PCJ Shutdown - Energy minister defends impending winding up of state body amid opposition alarm

Published:Saturday | September 14, 2019 | 12:09 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica building on Trafalgar Road in New Kingston.

Energy Minister Fayval Williams has responded to calls by her opposition counterpart, Phillip Paulwell, to shed light on new developments that could see the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) shutting its doors.

Paulwell raised an alarm yesterday that the Government was about to shut down the PCJ, the state entity mandated to manage the country’s energy needs.

Established in 1979, and a statutory corporation under the Ministry of Energy, the PCJ is also the parent company of the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam.

“The decision to close down the PCJ was taken without the benefit of any discussion with the [Energy] Council, the parliamentary Opposition, or consultation with industry stakeholders,” Paulwell charged yesterday.

The Energy Council, which was recently reconvened by Williams, met yesterday for a scheduled meeting.

“The decision is curious, ill-advised and will plunge Jamaica’s energy sector into uncertainty,” he added.

Paulwell argued that the need for a specialised energy sector agency remains necessary to oversee the day-to-day management of one of Jamaica’s most critical sectors of industry, commerce, and domestic households.

“The Government must provide a detailed statement on the way forward and how the ministry could take on the functions of the PCJ while simultaneously absorbing the responsibilities of NESoL (National Energy Solutions Limited), a decision announced by the prime minister some months ago.

“The statement should also include what would become of the oil and gas exploration projects for which PCJ is holding and supervising contracts for the continuing offshore investigations,” said Paulwell.

However, when The Gleaner made contact with Minister Williams yesterday, she said that the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology would be taking on the functions of the PCJ.

“The functions of PCJ will be subsumed into the ministry, and skilled professionals will be required,” she said, underscoring that some jobs could be retained during the process.

She noted that the process would, however, take some time to be completed.

Williams argued that the move was consistent with the ongoing effort of the Government to rationalise public-sector bodies. The administration announced back in 2017 that some 84 public entities would be either closed, merged, or divested in the public’s interest.

In July, Paulwell asked Williams whether the PCJ would be closed.

At the time, Williams said that no Cabinet decision had been made.

“The Government of Jamaica has an ongoing rationalisation plan of public bodies. It is incumbent upon the Government to continually look at its public bodies to decide their usefulness, to make decisions about whether they are taken back into the parent ministry, whether or not they are privatised, whether or not they are closed, and no entity is out of bounds for that consideration,” the energy minister had told the Parliament in responding to Paulwell.