Senate defers debate on Petroleum (Amendment) Act 2019

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

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THE debate on the Petroleum (Amendment) Act, 2019, which opened in the Senate last Friday, has been deferred for completion at a later date.

It seeks to, among other things, transfer the rights and obligations of the PetroCaribe Development Fund (PDF) to the Government of Jamaica.

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, who piloted the proposed legislation, said it also seeks to integrate the PDF's functions into the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, by repealing Part IIIA of the Petroleum Act.

In outlining details on the fund, the minister explained that it was established as a body corporate by the Government, pursuant to an amendment to the Petroleum Act in 2006.

Under Part IIIA of the Petroleum Act, the fund was charged with the responsibility of managing, among other things, the proceeds which accrued to Jamaica under the Energy Co-operation Agreement entered into between the Governments of Jamaica and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Senator Charles Jr said the PDF's functions also included receiving loan repayments from borrowers from the fund; receiving other proceeds which might accrue from the Fund's investments; financing projects and programmes; and settling Jamaica's debt service obligations for the purchase of oil and petroleum products under the PetroCaribe Agreement or any other bilateral arrangements between Jamaica and Venezuela.

He added that in this regard, “the PetroCaribe Fund has fulfilled its mandate”.

Senator Charles Jr said Clause 3, repeals Part IIIA, and the Second and Third Schedules of the Petroleum Act, 2006.

“This amendment deletes the provisions of Part IIIA which, among other things, established the PetroCaribe Fund. This amendment also deletes the two schedules which I noted, which outlines the constitution of the fund and the constitution of the board of management, respectively,” he said.

Senator Charles Jr said sub-clause (1) of clause 4 specifies that any moneys held in any bank account in the name of, or standing credit of, the PetroCaribe Fund shall be credited to the Consolidated Fund.

“Any monies paid into the Consolidated Fund on behalf of the PetroCaribe Fund must be used in the payment of any existing liabilities of the fund,” he said.

The minister further stated that sub-clause (2) sets out that all monies which became payable to the PetroCaribe Fund are to be paid into the Consolidated Fund.

“This refers to the monies which became payable to the fund before or after the Act becomes operational,” he said.

Senator Charles Jr said sub-clause (a) (i) and (ii) of clause 6, addresses the issue of assets and rights of the PetroCaribe Fund in relation to real property, which will become vested in the Commissioner of Land, and in relation to personal property, which will become vested in the Crown.

He said sub-clause (b), (c) and (d) of clause 6 addresses the issues regarding the existing liabilities of the PetroCaribe Fund, which will become the responsibility of the Crown.

The minister added that this clause also addresses the issue of any proceedings and remedy brought before or continued by or against the PetroCaribe Fund which may be brought or continued against the attorney general.

“It is also to be noted that all records and data of the PetroCaribe Fund will [be] passed to the minister with responsibility for finance, on behalf of the Crown,” he said.

The minister said clause 8 relates to savings pertaining to, among other things, any existing contractual obligations, rights, assets and liability of the PetroCaribe Fund.

Senator Charles Jr advised that with the integration of the fund's functions into the finance ministry, the Government would have continued its objective of merging, closing and divesting public bodies under the public sector rationalisation programme.


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