Sunday 15 December, 2019

VIDEO: US sanctions among factors behind Petrojam buy-back

Kamina Johnson-Smith addresses journalists on Tuesday. (PHOTO: Marlon Reid)

Kamina Johnson-Smith addresses journalists on Tuesday. (PHOTO: Marlon Reid)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness will table a bill in the House of Representative on Tuesday to begin the process of forcefully taking back Venezuela's 49 per cent stake in the Petrojam oil refinery.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith, while the government is in favour of negotiation, the situation is at a stalemate currently and the administration must act now to protect the interest of Jamaica.

She said that the government will continue the negotiation with representatives of Venezeula as the bill will have to be debated in Parliament, but if all fails, the hope is that the Holness administration will get the support to forcefully retake the shares.

In outlining the government’s position at a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Andrew on Tuesday, Johnson-Smith said, among the factors behind the move, was that US sanctions against Venezuela were affecting Petrojam’s ability to do business.

For instance, she said, banks are demanding that Petrojam sign agreements to offset fines as a result of dealing with the entity, which could run into millions of US dollars. They are also demanding agreements to stop services and delay payment at any time, which would cause further worries for Petrojam, Johnson Smith told journalists.

She said, with sanctions now being issued by the government of Canada, there are too many implications that could come from the island allowing Venezuela to continue as part owner of Petrojam.

She said, “the reality is that, as a responsible government, it is important that we act to protect Jamaica’s energy security. We do not have the luxury of hoping or praying that banks and suppliers will simply not assess the risk of doing business with Petrojam as just too high for them.”

She said, because of the critical role of Petrojam in the domestic market, the government had to make the important decision to sever ties with Venezuela, to prevent the economy from toppling and maintain the government’s economic agenda.

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