PM blames PNP for exposing Petrojam to fiscal risk

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness has blamed the previous People’s National Party (PNP) administration’s lack of foresight for not anticipating the inevitable fiscal risk to which Petrojam would be exposed after losing their largest customer — the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) — following the introduction of liquid natural gas (LNG).

“In its present state, Petrojam is a fiscal risk to the Government. The truth is, after JPS ceased to be its major customer by virtue of a decision that the Government made to diversify its fuel mix to include LNG, which is a more stable fuel in terms of its commodity pricing and probably better in the long run for Jamaica and a more efficient fuel from an environmental position. We (Government) took that decision. When we took that decision we should have also considered the other impacts of that decision, which means that Petrojam would lose 50 per cent of its customer [base]. That could very well mean that the operations of Petrojam could become a call on the Government,” Holness argued.

“I used the term Government but I shouldn’t because in the consciousness of Jamaica, Jamaican people see the Government as separate from them, which is not the case. Government is just the accumulation of you. So it is a call on the Government’s purse; Government is a collection from your pocket. And that’s what it is. Is it is going to be a call on your pockets?”

PNP spokesman on energy, Phillip Paulwell, however, said the Opposition is against what he termed the hostile takeover of Venezuela’s shares in Petrojam.

But the prime minister declared yesterday that “those who are critical of the Government now should explain why we are happening upon situations that are creating fiscal risks for the Government.