Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Jamaica and PetroCaribe: Where do we stand?

Published:Wednesday | April 26, 2017 | 4:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade recently hosted a press conference where the Minister Kamina Johnson Smith made several disclosures. The minister informed us on the status of the "impasse" between Jamaica and our CARICOM sister country Trinidad and Tobago.

The minister must be commended for the strides made to improve relationship between the two member states. However, I could not help but notice that in said press conference, another important piece of information was disseminated, information I think that is worthy of further clarification by the minister. The minister mentioned the drastic decline in the barrels of oil which we receive from Venezuela. "With the original quota being 23,000 barrels per day, Johnson-Smith says that this has been reduced to close to 1,300 barrels per day." (The Jamaica Gleaner).

 

Are we sitting ducks?

 

What does this mean for us in Jamaica? Will we see further increases in the price of oil? This is most concerning, particularly seeing that there has been a steady increase in the price of oil by Petrojam since the tabling of the Budget. How will we fill that gaping hole between that which we have become accustomed to receiving and what we been reduced to?

It is quite alarming. Where is the energy minister on the matter? Is it that we are going to now venture into alternative energy? Are we going to seek out other markets to make up for the shortfall?

Frankly, the situation in Venezuela has been tenuous for some time now, a reality that should have long indicated to the Government that forward planning was imperative. The silence from those who hold the substantive portfolios related to this matter is worrying, to put it mildly. I see where Cabinet has appointed a special committee for review, which is to be chaired by Mrs Johnson Smith. The committee is to review trade relations, as well as matters relating to the PetroCaribe deal. While this is a responsible move, it is still not comforting.

I note that the opposition spokesperson on energy is expressing much optimism about the PetroCaribe deal, but I would want to temper that gusto with a bit of pragmatism. My mother had a saying, 'Tan an see nuh poil nuh dance', but I would say in response to that he who fails to plan, plans to fail. Let us not fall in that trap.

LORENZO SMITH

lorenzsmitt@gmail.com