Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Region should collectively reach out to Venezuela

Published:Thursday | March 16, 2017 | 3:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Jamaica continues to receive significant benefit from the PetroCaribe Fund. Quite recently, it was reported that several Jamaican students will receive scholarships totalling $30 million from this fund.

The PetroCaribe agreement has been described as one of the finest examples of political collaboration in Jamaica's history. Jamaicans have benefited directly in a number of areas, namely: education, funding to the Students' Loan Bureau, grants to finance projects aimed at improving the lives and welfare of the poor and vulnerable in our society. Indirectly, the agreement has stabilised our economy mainly with our balance of payments and exchange rate.

 

Change of fortunes

 

However, while Jamaica earns, Venezuela burns. Following the drastic reduction in world oil prices, and with oil accounting for approximately 90 per cent of Venezuela's exports, the Venezuelan economy has seen an unprecedented economic meltdown. The latest economic reports show inflation in 2016 reaching 800 percent and is expected to rise even higher. The country is now short on food and medical supplies.

Venezuela was a friend to Jamaica and other Caribbean countries in a time of need. At the time of the implementation of the PetroCaribe Agreement, world oil prices were trading astronomically high, threatening to destabilise many Caribbean economies. Several countries were already feeling the effects of the high oil prices. With the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean countries rely on imported fuel to drive their economies.

In light of the present situation in Venezuela, Jamaica and the other PertoCaribe Agreement beneficiaries should reach out to the people of Venezuela who made significant sacrifices for us in our time of need. While a few countries may have individually reached out to Venezuela, in the context of the present situation, a collective response would be most appropriate.

While we may not be wealthy countries, it would be good for us to remember that "if you have a dollar, you have plenty to share" and that "a friend in need is a friend indeed".

Kemmehi Lozer

k_lozer@yahoo.com