Saturday 28 March, 2020

Gov't announces closure of PCJ; Opposition wants answers

The Government has apparently taken a decision to close the state-run Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) and the parliamentary Opposition is demanding answers on the development.

Opposition Shadow Minister for Mining and Energy, Phillip Paulwell, is demanding that both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the Minister of Energy, Flaval Williams, “provide an immediate justification of the Cabinet’s decision to close the PCJ and subsume its functions in the Ministry of Mining, Energy, and Technology.”

“The announcement of the closure of such an important Government statutory corporation should not be approached as casually as it were yesterday (Thursday) in a staff meeting at the PCJ,” said Paulwell in a statement on Friday.

According to the former Energy Minister, “The decision is curious, ill-advised and will plunge Jamaica’s energy sector into uncertainty; and create a crisis in the sector on the sole basis of this action by the government.”

“So ill-considered and ill-timed was the policy decision, it came on the eve of the first meeting of the reinstated Energy Council, which held its first meeting today (Friday),” Paulwell argued.

He said the decision to close down the PCJ was taken without the benefit of any discussion with the council, the parliamentary Opposition or consultation with industry stakeholders.

The PNP Shadow Minister recalled that the PCJ was established by statute in 1979, as Jamaica’s policy response to the World energy crisis, aspects of which persist today.

He said the need for a specialised energy sector agency remains necessary to conduct the day-to-day management of one of Jamaica’s most critical sectors of industry, commerce and domestic households.

Paulwell said the government must provide a detailed statement on the way forward and how the Ministry could take on the functions of the PCJ while simultaneously absorbing the responsibilities of National Energy Solutions Limited (NESoL), a decision announced by the Prime Minister some months ago.

“The statement should also include what would become of the oil and gas exploration projects, for which PCJ is holding and supervising contracts for the continuing offshore investigations,” Paulwell stated.

He also wants to know, how the cabinet decision would affect the future of Petrojam, the state-owned oil refinery, of which PCJ is the parent company.

And the shadow minister has also expressed concern over the fate of the PCJ workers. He wants Minister Williams to immediately say what will become of the highly skilled members of the PCJ workforce and how many would be absorbed by the Ministry.

“The staff welfare is very important and the feasibility of the Ministry absorbing the agency’s staff should be thoroughly examined”, he said.

Paulwell also wants to know what decision has the cabinet taken in relation to the vast assets of the company, including the 2,000 acre Font Hill property in St. Elizabeth, which includes a beachfront park and recreation area.


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