PetroCaribe money …PM details trail of missing US$$
This revelation was shared by Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, at the 67th anniversary ceremony of the Enmore Martyrs in Enmore, East Coast Demerara (ECD).
PetroCaribe was an agreement struck between the governments of Guyana and Venezuela, where Guyana would receive concessionary prices for oil in exchange for rice. Monies received from the exchange deal would subsequently be transferred to the PetroCaribe fund, under the purview of the Ministry of Finance.
Some of the money was meant to be allocated to the payment of rice farmers and millers for rice produced to sustain the exchange.
Since coming to power A Partnership for National Unity plus Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), revealed that upon checking the contents of the fund there was no money. Minister of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, at his post Cabinet press briefing last week, revealed that this essentially meant that the PetroCaribe fund was bankrupt.
After this piece of revelation, the PPP/C charged that it was the new administration that was responsible for emptying the PetroCaribe fund, despite being in power for less than a month. The PPP/C refuted claims that it had anything to do with missing monies, since the fund was “managed optimally and transparently” by the former administration.
The Opposition party added that funds were spent on various Government developmental projects.
However, according to Prime Minister Nagamootoo, the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) received the bulk of the allocations— US$115M while the Ministry of Housing got US$10M. US$16M was pumped into the Hope Canal project.
“We had billions of dollars in what is called the PetroCaribe Fund and we were never told that the previous government transferred US$115M to the Guyana Power and Light from the rice fund,” said the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Nagamootoo said that the previous administration had further transferred US$10M to the Housing Ministry, with Irfaan Ali as the Minister, to develop land which sugar and rice workers are unable to afford.
Another revelation by the First Vice President, was that US$16M was allocated to the construction of the $3.6B Hope Canal Project. This, according to him, was contrary to where the PPP/C administration said funding came from, that is the Treasury, during their tenure.
“All along we were told that money was coming from the Treasury to build the Hope Canal,” said Nagamootoo, as members of the Enmore attendees were audibly appalled at the news.
With the news of the bankrupt PetroCaribe fund, the Prime Minister said that his administration is working assiduously to find money to pay rice farmers for their crop.
Moving forward the Prime Minister told the gathering the rice industry is faced with many problems, just like the sugar industry, but that it can be fixed with the support of workers.
“We have realised that years of bad government must come to an end and we cannot do it alone. We need your support and cooperation,” said PM Nagamootoo.
Bilateral talks set to take place with Venezuela as Guyana seeks extension of PetroCaribe deal
The Guyana Cabinet has mandated that efforts be undertaken to engage neighbouring Venezuela on the terms of the PetroCaribe agreement, and its extension.
“We have been advised that there are other countries in the South American continent that are pushing to take over that rice market in Venezuela,” he said.
He expressed government’s optimism, however, that due to the length of time that the two countries have been engaged in this trade, Guyana should have an advantage in maintaining its market share.
“We believe that because of the length of time that we have been shipping rice to the Venezuela market, they might have become accustomed to Guyana’s rice and we stand a better chance of being able to negotiate a longer term arrangement,” he explained.
With Guyana aiming to sell more than 200,000 tonnes of rice and paddy to Venezuela, for this year, Harmon reiterated that the PetroCaribe Fund, set up to hold the proceeds from the oil-for-rice arrangement, was ” still bare” and debtors were demanding outstanding payments.
“What we are getting so far are bills,” he said, adding that this was a result of “years of mismanagement by the former administration when they were in government.”
The minister reminded that the shipments of rice to Venezuela under this arrangement come to an end this year.
“We are engaging Venezuela on a bilateral basis to see whether it is possible to extend that facility for Venezuela to continue buying rice from Guyana,” he said.
Harmon said that the foreign affairs minister has been assigned to assist with this matter, while, “other ministers will be engaged in this type of shuttle diplomacy to ensure that we get the best out of this situation.”
The government is currently seeking to source some US$15 million to cover outstanding amounts owed to rice producers and other stakeholders in the sector.