Updated: November 26, 2017

Nov 26, 2017
"Honesty is a very expensive gift, don't expect it from cheap people" Warren Buffet

Now that Dominica has had more than US $100 Million debt forgiven, what does the Labor Administration plan to do with this windfall?  How about using it to rebuild the 18 major bridges that were broken down by Hurricane Maria? How about re-purposing the Feeder roads in order to move roads away from the coast and facilitate the relocation of Dominicans living in dangerous situations in Dominica?  Venezuela and the rest of the World will be looking to see where their generous donation is channeled in the reconstruction process and, to whose benefit!  But, as Dominicans know, this money is long gone. The question is "where all de money gone?"

Since Dominica signed the PetroCaribe Agreement in 2005 and, through some of the modifications and other Special Agreements, Dominicans have been kept in the dark about the details of the Agreement.  The public  has no knowledge  about fundamentals of the plan or of the monies that have passed through this Entity.  No financial statements or audited reports  have been presented for the past 12 years. Therefore, no one actually knows how this shady Agency operates.

Here is a brief outline of how Petro Caribe was structured to function in Dominica's case.  In 2005,  an agreement was signed with several Caribbean Countries, whereby Venezuela would supply petroleum products at a nominal rate.  The countries would pay back 60% every 90 days and the remaining  40% over 17-25 years at 1-2% interest. Dominica is a special case because of being the first caricom country to join Alba.  Its short-term payment was reduced to 50% over 90 days. Also,  long term  payment was divided equally such that  25% would go to an Alba-Caribe  fund which was previously seeded with at least US$100 million from Venezuela. This money was to be used by Alba members who could apply to fund projects within their country. The remaining 25% would fund the Joint Venture, JV.  Under the JV,  Venezuela gets 55% via PVD Caribe S.A and Dominica get 45% via Dominica National Petroleum Company. 

  Note PVD Carib Dominica Ltd is a Joint Venture; it consists of PVD Caribe, S.A. (55%) and Dominica National Petroleum Company Ltd.(45%). 

As you can see, the Petro Caribe Project was very complex and called for proper project management, execution, and financial transparency. Given this complexity, the opportunity for diversion ('Bobol') is abundant. For the past 12 years since its inception,  there has been one Minister at helm who, along with his Cabinet Colleagues, decides to fund whatever - infra-structure projects, social programs, etcetera. There is a Board of Director responsive to no one. So, it was not surprising that in August 2013 Mr. Austrie, in his role as Energy Minister, was forced to explain why Dominica was owing US $23 million. Among the many weak excuses Mr. Austrie gave for non-payment was that they had to use some of this money for 'projects'.   When Mr. Austrie came out in 2013 to say that some of this money being owed to Venezuela was taken to fund projects he was not being truthful nor transparent. The Administration should have applied for such money under the Alba-Caribe fund which should have been receiving 25% of the deferred oil payments.  No monies from the short-term debts should have been used for projects. It seems that Mr. Austrie, with some fancy accounting, came to the conclusion that Venezuela was owing Dominica. 

No wonder that when the question was asked in the House of Assembly about the Petrocaribe's debt, The Minister stated that no money was owed.  I guess he was still doing his 'zazie moozy' accounting. Well, Venezuela wasn't buying it. Dominica was owing Venezuela money under the short term debt repayment arrangement.  So, on November 22nd 2017, they made this grand gesture of debt forgiveness to Dominica for all the world to see.  It is therefore left to Dominica to refute that claim or thank Venezuela for their generosity. No word yet from Mr. Skerrit or Mr. Austrie. The 'commess' continues to stew.