PM orders help for Venezuela

PM orders help for Venezuela

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

Thursday, June 02, 2016

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester – Arguing that Jamaica should never consider itself too poor to help others, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says he has issued instructions for ways to be found to help economically and socially distressed Venezuela.

"We will do what we can within our means to play our part…," Holness told his audience at the commissioning of Wigton windfarm phase III at Rose Hill in windswept south Manchester yesterday.

Venezuelan help was instrumental in the third phase of the wind energy project launched a year ago with the bulk of the US$45-million financing coming from the preferential Venezuela/Caribbean oil alliance, PetroCaribe. Wigton III, which follows other major wind projects at Rose Hill, Wigton I and Wigton II, is tipped to reduce Jamaica’s national oil consumption by 37,100 barrels per year and save the country more than $230 million annually.

Holness said PetroCaribe "has been critically helpful to Jamaica" with built-in concessionary and developmental arrangements "given to us from the people of Venezuela".

In such circumstances, he suggested, Jamaica had "a duty and responsibility" to assist Venezuelans in their "time of need".

"I have given directions to our Government to look into ways in which kindness and facilitation that have been given by the people of Venezuela to Jamaica, that Jamaica also has a duty and obligation to ensure that in their (Venezuela’s) time of need that we, too, can provide some assistance…" Holness said.

Partly as a result of rapidly falling oil prices since last year, oil-rich Venezuela has been hit hard by food, fuel and other material shortages in recent months. The shortages have fuelled severe social unrest and triggered intense pressure for Venezuela’s Socialist President Nicolas Maduro to resign. The Venezuelan Government has accused the political opposition and hostile outside forces of encouraging the unrest.

Holness argued yesterday that "Jamaica must never consider itself too poor a country to help. We are a country that is rich in kindness, rich in consideration and we always stand up for democracy, peace, tranquillity and prosperity …"

Maduro visited Jamaica recently and held talks with Holness as part of a push to bolster regional support.

A fast-moving Holness declined to take questions from journalists at the end of yesterday’s commissioning. However, Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley told the
Jamaica Observer that the Government was exploring possibilities, including providing Jamaican goods to Venezuela using PetroCaribe money.

"We are looking at a contribution to the people of Venezuela through, say, the PetroCaribe Fund where we can assist them by giving them goods using funds from PetroCaribe to purchase Jamaican goods … a win-win situation," he said.

Wheatley said another way would be "straight contribution without the cost being borne by the PetroCaribe Fund".

Economic analysts say Jamaica and other non-oil producing economies in the Latin American and Caribbean benefited immensely from Venezuela’s concessionary PetroCaribe arrangement at a time when global oil prices were soaring.

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