Gov’t moving to divest Wigton Windfarm

Gov’t moving to divest Wigton Windfarm

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The Government is pressing ahead with plans to partially or fully divest the profit-making Wigton wind farm in Rose Hill, south Manchester, possibly using the stock market.

"Wigton is one of the more successful Government entities around, and we are looking at divestment to generate… more capital for further expansion not only in Wigton, but in other viable projects across the country," Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley told journalists last week, following the formal commissioning of phase three (Wigton III) of the wind farm.

"It is part of our mandate that the Government creates viable entities that we then pass on to the private sector so that Jamaicans can invest, whether through the stock market or as a result of total buyout…," Wheatley said.

Wheatley, who was expanding on comments made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during the commissioning ceremony, said the divestment "process has just begun… we are doing the necessary exploratory work and it is looking very, very good…

During the function, Wigton Chairman Duane Smith had proudly proclaimed that the wind farm, which is a subsidiary of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, was earning "money for Jamaica". He seemed to suggest it would be better off remaining in Government hands.

Wigton I and II were earning US$11 million annually, and the addition of Wigton III would bring earnings to US$20 million, he said.

Smith said "projected annual profit for phases I and II is approximately $500 million".

And in what appeared to be a strong recommendation for the wind farm to remain State-owned, Smith added: "Since Wigton is a nationally owned entity, all the revenues earned stay in the local economy."

However, in a direct response to Smith, Holness — who as leader of Opposition had advocated the divestment of Wigton – spoke of the perceived advantages of divestment.

"That the Wigton windfarm is successful and is profitable, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be profitable or even more profitable in private (ownership) …," said Holness.

"It doesn’t mean that the ownership of the Wigton

windfarm shouldn’t be used to influence, promote, stimulate economic growth and activity in other areas. The ownership could be shared. For example, the shares could be placed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, giving Jamaicans other alternatives in which they could invest instead of (buy government) paper," he added.

Holness, whose Jamaica Labour Party won political power in the February 25, 2016 parliamentary election, told his audience that "the Government of Jamaica is in a process of redefining itself… what is it that Government should do, what is Government best at…"

He argued that "oftentimes [people] confuse the results of actions for a short period of time with the long-term strategic position…"

Among the ideas being explored was how best to "use


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