GUYANA: Energy Crisis: The time has come for CSME to play it s role – Letter by Eusi Kwayana

Dear Editor:

In a discussion on Sunday June 19, 2022, the panelists on Observer Radio in Antigua considered a statement by Prime Minister Gaston Brown of Antigua and Barbuda. That statement suggested that it might be necessary for the Caribbean countries in CARICOM to approach Venezuela for a second chapter of Petro Caribe which was designed to help Caribbean countries at the time of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution.

At this point it is good to remember that Trinidad and Tobago during the days of its oil boom had extended credit facilities to some of the Caribbean islands in CARICOM. One of them, Guyana, benefitted from these credits up to its limit of $500M in US dollars, I suppose largely for fuel imports. It was reported that a substantial amount of these debts ($482.5M US dollars) were eventually written off by the Trinidad and Tobago government as Guyana was unable to honour its debt. (See note at end).           

One panelist, who was aware of the details financing under Petro Caribe, warned that the problem was not Venezuela and its willingness or unwillingness or ability to supply energy products to CARICOM. It was caused by the economic sanctions on Venezuela that were imposed by the United States of America. These sanctions prevent any Bank dealing with Venezuela and therefore make the resumption of such trade impossible.

It seems that there is uneasiness in the Caribbean about the future of the supply of energy especially in view of the current sharply rising prices largely due to the war launched by Russia against Ukraine.

We are discussing this in the midst of a growing oil boom in Guyana, a member of CARICOM, and in the presence of a structure wisely designed many years ago, called the CSME- The Caribbean Single Market and Economy. So far as oil is concerned, which is a resource coming to light in Guyana, after the historical experience of Trinidad and Venezuela; this resource belongs to Guyana and Guyana belongs to the Single Market and Economy, so it seems that it is time for Caricom to discuss what is the significance that these new resources are to the single market and economy.

It must be added here that in a recent visit to Guyana, Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago paused to make a very significant statement. He announced for the benefit of all concerned that the oil refinery facilities in Trinidad and Tobago, which apparently are now idle, were available to Guyana if that country should consider them useful. He was probably thinking along the same lines as Prime Minister Brown of Antigua and Barbuda when he made that recommendation.

I am thinking of the very precarious situation that all the CARICOM countries seen to be in with the expanding energy crisis. We are in a real fix because these countries are frail and weather beaten; first call in many storms that we are told are due to emissions of energy exploration and mining such as is now expanding rapidly in Guyana, a member of CARICOM.

It seems timely therefore that the experts who know the economies of CARICOM and who know the effects of the climatic changes that are affecting the planet and especially the storm affected CARICOM countries study the effects of the ongoing “climate crisis”. It is time that these human resources come together to design sensible, fair and equitable framework for the future of the Region.

The small CARICOM region has shown itself competent to provide experts at every level especially in education and health. It has also produced numerous experts who can be gainfully occupied in making the CSME relevant to the challenges facing CARICOM.

Note re debt by Guyana to Trinidad and Tobago:

GUYANA: In May 2019, the Finance Ministry disclosed we fully repaid the slashed debt to TT. “Trinidad and Tobago, which was Guyana’s largest bilateral creditor about two decades ago, generously wrote off US$482.5 million or 90 percent of Guyana’s debt as part of the Paris Club arrangements,” it observed in a public debt report.

Source: https://www.stabroeknews.com/2020/10/08/features/first-person-singular/a-dose-of-salts/

Eusi Kwayana – https://www.frelusja.com – One of the world’s oldest bloggers, (b. 1925), now writing orally, with computer helpers.

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