Guyana continues to meet obligations under PetroCaribe – Finance Minister
Noting that Guyana has concluded three debt compensation agreements with Venezuela, Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh has said Guyana continues to meet its obligations under the PetroCaribe arrangement.
Guyana’s debt to PetroCaribe was estimated at $198.27 million at the end of 2013 as compared to US$364 million at the end of 2012. Guyana’s debt to PetroCaribe is paid in paddy and rice as settlement for oil from Venezuela.
“We continue to meet our obligations under PetroCaribe,” Dr Singh told Guyana Times when contacted on Wednesday.
During his budget presentation in March, Dr Singh had also said that Guyana’s external debt stock stood at US$1.2 billion, a reduction of 8.3 per cent from the previous year.
“This reduction was mainly as a result of Government concluding two additional compensation agreements under the PetroCaribe arrangement which saw US$281.1 million of oil debt effectively cancelled, [a sum] equivalent to the value of rice and paddy exported by Guyana to Venezuela from July 2011 to October 2013,” Dr Singh had told Parliament during his budget presentation.
And last year, Dr Singh had stated that towards the end of 2012, Guyana had signed its “first debt compensation agreement with Venezuela which reduced the Petrocaribe debt owed to that country by US$100.8 million, [a sum] equivalent to the value of rice and paddy shipped from December 2009 to July 2011”.
Only last week, Guyana Times reported that Government is currently in talks with Venezuela on the possibility of exporting additional products to the Spanish-speaking country under the PetroCaribe arrangement.
“Talks are going on right now,” Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy had said.
Minister Ramsammy said cash crops, vegetables, fruits, medicine and building materials are just some of the products Guyana could export to Venezuela, if talks go favourably with the Nicholas Maduro-led Venezuelan Government.
Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett also confirmed to Guyana Times that the administration is in talks with Venezuela to expand export.
“So far we are only exporting rice under the PetroCaribe mechanism and discussions to supply additional items have not yet been concluded,” Rodrigues-Birkett had stated.
Since last year, Government had said it was looking to move beyond the new rice agreement under the PetroCaribe deal.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds said the question on whether Guyana should be concerned about the PetroCaribe agreement suddenly ending due to the perceived political upheaval and declining economy in Venezuela is premature.
“Government will continue to participate in PetroCaribe,” Hinds had told Guyana Times.
PetroCaribe is an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.
The alliance was launched on June 29, 2005 in Puerto La Cruz, by Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez.
The payment system allows for purchase of oil on market value for five to 50 per cent, up front, with a grace period of one to two years; the remainder can be paid through a 17-25 year financing agreement with one per cent interest if oil prices are above US$40 per barrel.