The Dominica government knocked reports that the island cannot make payments to Venezuela for PetroCaribe oil, calling them ill-informed.
Acting Prime Minister Reginald Austrie said last week on state-owned DBS radio that the arrangement with Caracas "is alive, it's transparent and we continue to enjoy the very excellent relationship with the government of Venezuela".
Media reports said that the Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, was asking the government to fork over US$23 million in outstanding payments.
But Austrie, who has special responsibility for PetroCaribe within the Roosevelt Skerrit administration, said Dominica "has never refused to pay, nor are we not able to pay, nor are we unwilling to meet our obligations for payment under that agreement".
He said the situation arose due to late invoicing by PDVSA, in some cases "as late as two months".
Dominica's agreement with Venezuela calls for payment of 40 per cent over a three-month period and 60 per cent in long-term loans over a 25-year period.
details of agreement
"So while the agreement makes provision for payment within a 90-day period, if you receive your invoice after 60 days then clearly it will affect your payment schedule and for some time you have a double shipment coming at you ... so it affects the payment schedule to PDVSA," Austrie said.
Austrie said following the passage of a tropical storm last year, Venezuela made a grant of EC$20 million for the infrastructure work and that money "came from the 40 per cent we owed PDVSA".
He added that Caracas itself owed Dominica EC$30.5 million (US$11.3m) "loaned to them from the short-term portion" of PetroCaribe, and that the joint venture PDV PetroCaribe Dominica Limited owes the Dominica National Petroleum Company US$20 million.
"It is from those US$20 million, when paid to the DNPC, we can now pay to PDVSA," Austrie said.
"Yes, the books will reflect that we owe them some US$23 million, but the reality is that out of that US$23 million we have had to meet obligations of the Venezuelan government under that arrangement. The problem is an administration issue, not an issue of Dominica not wanting to pay or not willing to pay," he said.