A Maduro win won't keep PetroCaribe intact — Hughes

BY BALFORD HENRY Sunday Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 14, 2013

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CHIEF Executive Officer (CEO) of Jamaica's PetroCaribe Development Fund (PDF) Dr Wesley Hughes has said that even a facile victory by Nicolas Maduro in today's Venezuelan elections will not prevent changes to the concessionary nature of the oil agreement.


"Even if the current (acting) president is re-elected, there is every likelihood that the agreement could be changed," Dr Hughes said Thursday night.


The former financial secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning and career civil servant, who took over as CEO of the PDF in February, was speaking at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Trafalgar-New Heights, at the Liguanea Club in New Kingston.


Hughes seemed to blame the tardiness of several of the other Caribbean nations benefiting from the facility in meeting the provisions of the agreement, for Venezuela's proposal to modify the arrangement as its economy becomes burdened by the deal.


"I think that we need, as a country to be prepared for all these eventualities," Hughes said.


"One (candidate) may be more favourable to a continuation, but is it not going to a be continuation in the form that the agreement was structured. So, whatever happens Sunday, we have to be prepared for some changes."


He pointed out that since the inception of the facility in 2005, Jamaica has benefited to the tune of US$2.4 billion, and has paid back US$150 million. However, he said that Jamaica was the only beneficiary which had established a fund, which insulated from the temptation to consume the benefits in current expenditure, and had invested it in a way to ensure that the country would be able to meet the payments when they become due.


"We have been servicing the debt, and we will be in a position to continue servicing the debts as they become due, which is very important, because it puts us in a position where even with the negotiations to modify the agreement, Jamaica could argue, with some credibility, that we should be treated as a special case," he said.


"I am hopeful, but I am also very clear in my mind that we should, as a country, be prepared for the changes and adjustments," Dr Hughes said.


He also explained that discussions on the issues were being pursued at the financial as well as the political and diplomatic levels, and should become more transparent after the presidential election.


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