During his Independence Day Speech, Prime Minister Dean Barrow officially announced that Alba Petrocaribe will continue to import petroleum products from Petróleos de Venezuela, PDVSA, under the PetroCaribe Agreement. While it is good news, Senator representing the business community, Mark Lizarraga says that the Petrocaribe money must be accounted for.
Senator Mark Lizarraga
“My issue with PetroCaribe is not the program itself, it’s how the programs of the funds are used. We still have not had proper accounting I believe on what it is that we have achieved using the PetroCaribe funds. We’ve seen in the past a one page report that so much was spent on this and that but that to me is not a report for the spending of $400 million dollars. I have not seen a supplementary, as is required by law government should come to the house every three months with projections going forward what it would spend and giving a report on the preceding three months. We will recall in the past where the law was even changed because monies from PetroCaribe were used without going to the house. So I would like to see, and again I repeat what the business community has said, perhaps we need to look at how we use the money from PetroCaribe. Several examples could be to retire expensive debt, we could use it to set up a disaster fund we’ve seen our colleagues in the Caribbean the devastation in some of these countries that are having a hard time getting access to funds because they owe a lot. Our debt today even after the renegotiation of our outstanding debt is now back to 100% of GDP while a few months ago it was 80% of GDP.”
“Government is saying otherwise-“
Senator Mark Lizarraga
“The IMF report just came out saying that we are back at 100% of GDP; the IMF does not pull these numbers out of thin air, they get them from the authorities in Belize by the way. So one has to question what have we done with this reprieve that we’ve gotten? We’ve negotiated our loans we were at 80% of GDP and now a few months later we are back at 100% so all the savings we incurred that were incurred from that renegotiation we’ve now used it to borrow more. So I certainly while I welcome PetroCaribe and the generosity of the Venezuelan people and government I would like to say that we are using in an open and transparent fashion and that we are really getting value for money in the spending of this money; we are using the money for something that represents some sort of a safety net as it should represent but we just are on this path of borrowing and spending and borrowing and spending and I question in effect how much of this spending is really impacting our people.”