14th Meeting of the Ministerial Council of PetroCaribe Caracas, Venezuela
HON. ASOT MICHAEL MP
20TH NOVEMBER 2014
It is an honour and pleasure for me to represent Antigua and Barbuda at this Ministerial Council of PetroCaribe, and I believe that important decisions will be taken today that will strengthen the PetroCaribe arrangements even more.
I bring with me to this meeting the warm fraternal greetings from the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Hon. Gaston Browne.
As current Chairman of the Caribbean Community, Prime Minister Gaston Browne reaffirms the robust solidarity of the member states of CARICOM within PetroCaribe.
Prime Minister Browne understands the centrality of PetroCaribe to the fiscal sustainability of his Government, and he commends the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for building out the structural benefits of this arrangement.
For Antigua and Barbuda, one of the smallest members of PetroCaribe, it is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of Petrocaribe for the survivability of our economy.
While some member states find PetroCaribe useful from a balance-of-payments point of view, it is not a secret that PetroCaribe has gone a long way to saving Antigua and Barbuda from fiscal collapse.
For the establishment of PetroCaribe, we salute the vision and solidarity of the Eternal Commander, Hugo Chavez.
It is the vision of Chavez that has lifted thousands out of poverty in all our member states; it is the solidarity of Chavez with the ordinary people of our countries that has brought social benefits to thousands more who never had these benefits before.
In Antigua and Barbuda, we therefore see PetroCaribe as a very important instrument for development and we see it as our duty to defend PetroCaribe whenever and wherever it is challenged.
Had there been no PetroCaribe, Antigua and Barbuda would long ago have been driven over a fiscal cliff, with disastrous consequences for our nation and its people.
Of course, we understand the logistical challenges to PetroCaribe associated with delivering what are really small volumes of petroleum products to the small islands of the Eastern Caribbean.
We in Antigua and Barbuda are ready to address this issue by being the consolidation point for shipments of petroleum products under PetroCaribe to the Eastern Caribbean. We are of the view that the facilities already exist in Antigua and Barbuda for bringing this proposal to a successful conclusion.
Under this arrangement, there will be benefits to both the recipient countries and to PDVSA. We look forward to being able to finalize and implement these joint-venture proposals in the near future.
We express our gratitude to Petrocaribe, acknowledging that the principles of solidarity and social benefit are really what motivate the Petrocaribe operations.
We salute the fraternal people of Venezuela, whose friendship and solidarity has made brothers and sisters of us all.
Challenges to PetroCaribe
It is astounding but true that today PetroCaribe is under increasing attack from various quarters both within the region and further afield.
Many of these commentators, largely the mainstream media in North America, choose to misunderstand Petro Caribe and to ignore the vital role it plays in addressing urgent social needs and infrastructure development through sustainable low-cost funding over the long-term.
If there were no PetroCaribe, where would the funds necessary for development come from, and on what terms?
Ignoring the social dimension, in recent times various critics have sought to proclaim the imminent demise of PetroCaribe based on a bureaucrat’s calculation of debt-to-GDP ratios and benchmarks enforced by international financial institutions.
The objective of these attacks is to undermine confidence in PetroCaribe and to prepare the way for the return of the harsh austerity measures that have characterized the economies of our region.
However, austerity cannot grow our economies and, with so many of countries of the Caribbean under a Stand-By Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), our people are being asked to bear the costs of the international economic downturn all by themselves. This we cannot allow.
In our view, PetroCaribe represents the future.
It is a future where the concerns of ordinary citizens find a central place in public policy. It is an alternative model that gives a human face to development.
I believe that, at this meeting, we can further refine and strengthen the current arrangements.
PetroCaribe is a programme that addresses the primary concerns of both Governments and ordinary people. We need to defend it from scurrilous attacks, wherever they may come from.
The Future of PetroCaribe
The dream of the Eternal Commander now stands at the cross-roads.
There are those who are waiting for PetroCaribe to fail, and there are those who are working to ensure that PetroCaribe fails.
Let us confound the critics and defeat them all.
As we debate today, let us bring a flexibility that can adapt PetroCaribe to the objective economic and social conditions of the different member states.
And let us remember that the objective conditions vary widely across our member states, and that one size does not fit all.
We call on PetroCaribe to pay special attention to its smallest and most vulnerable constituents, and to craft practical solutions that seek to remedy so many economic and social challenges that confront our societies and economies.
Today we can salute the proud achievements of PetroCaribe, and these achievements point us to a future that is bright with hope.
As we refine and consolidate PetroCaribe, we give hope to millions for a better life. And we give a breathibg-space to our economies to allow them to withstand the buffeting winds of globalization.
Long may PetroCaribe flourish!
Long live the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela!