Columns

Petroswamp uncut!

Franklin
Johnston

Friday, February 22, 2019

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And it came to pass in the fourth year of Andrew, in the year of our Lord two thousand and nineteen, in the second month, there was dengue plague, mosquitoes gave deadly Valentine's Day kisses; history was made by our first legislator; a Member of Parliament was horribly murdered in this 21st century; Petrojam struck fear in many; and a fired human resource manager, with many outstanding disciplinary charges, made Prime Minister Andrew Holness slow of speech and face charges of lying in his own House of Parliament and men who make law were powerless against a non-disclosure agreement — unprecedented!

The auditor general found many snouts in the Petrojam trough; the Public Accounts Committee gained traction after political hiccups. Greenwich Farm is famous for fish kills, ship-borne waste, corpses in the mangroves, but these aromatics are no match for Petrojam's stench.

Billions have been lost on a refinery unviable from the get-go. Esso could not make profit, but the Government could — it was 'strategic', they said. Some time ago our firm presented a proposal on a Hess Corporation break — bulk oil terminal for supertankers at Cow Bay, St Thomas, (with dry dock) to shuttle oil to ports on the Caribbean Sea. It was rejected. Why? We have a refinery; we big already! Hubris blocks prosperity! Could it still work?

Petrojam is a redundant overlay of complexity in what may be a generational oil scam and it seem it systematically sets prices for us using the 'Ramharrack salary' axiom — yet higher!

The gift by Carlos Andrés Perez, Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro did not benefit our masses. Had we shuttered Petrojam we would have had prices like most nations. But since 'we bright', we bought the cow to get cheap milk; small scale, feed, maintenance, a shop in every district — bad decision! In the public sector if you lose enough, for long enough, you benefit from the grace of low expectations. So, our leaders had near-misses, none grew prosperity, but all are pleased with themselves.

Petrojam is a generational scandal to be unravelled; so million-dollar cakes, Wakanda-mania, the scandal of hiring and firings, are all small tokens of where “what falls from head” goes. So, in the midst of multi-billion-dollar shenanigans, we got a master class by a protected person.

Petrojam bears witness to an egregious abuse of process and funds. The tale is compelling; as parties and cake we know, billions we only imagine — audacious!

Since the auditor general's report lifted the lid, the stench of corruption is abroad, so expect waves of nausea as layers are peeled back as the Public Accounts Committee follows the money. The whole situation puts Petrojam in the cross hairs of a public soap opera; do rating, corruption bodies and the International Monetary Fund take notes?

For reasons unknown Andrew, with a full desk, inserted himself into this slough with billions in losses.

The Public Accounts Committee is energised, as Petrojam will be the gift that keeps on giving up to the general election — unless he resigns and Juliet takes over.

Alleged lies to Parliament; billions lost; failures of governance; tainted integrity; ministers, board members, executives neglected fiduciary duties; will we have resignations, restitution and sanctions?

Had we bought finished petroleum products and parlayed the Venezuelan oil into good supply contracts we would have had cheaper fuel for years. But our politicians loved the idea of owning a refinery, despite the losses. Recall they loved Air Jamaica and poured billions of our taxes into that bottomless pit? There are also other well-loved, unprofitable entities we need to divorce. Watch this space. Stay conscious!

 

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and lectures in logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

 


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