The fuel surcharge consumers pay as part of their electricity bills does not include diesel used at the Argyle international airport construction site, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says.
“For that to happen, it will be illegal,” Gonsalves told Parliament Tuesday while responding to a question from Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace.
He said the law is clear that the fuel surcharge is calculated using only the cost of diesel used to generate electricity.
Gonsalves said he has heard senior people in the Opposition saying the diesel used at the airport is hurting poor people because it is included when calculating the fuel surcharge.
“It is just plain wrong,” he told legislators.
He further said that at VINLEC power plants in the Grenadines, if diesel is used re-fuel vehicles, it is subtracted from the computation of the fuel surcharge.
“So we must not continue to speak these falsehoods. I know the questions you ask you are seeking an answer. But before the answer comes, the modus operandi is to run the propaganda, a whole set of lies, then come to seek the truth. It is just wrong,” Gonsalves said.
He further said VINLEC charges the International Airport Development Company (IADC) the full cost of the diesel it supplies.
“There is absolutely no subsidy by VINLEC to the IADC. Again, that is another falsehood that the reason why the fuel surcharge is so high [is because] VINLEC [is] subsidising IADC,” Gonsalves said.
He said that some people oppose the construction of the EC$652 million airport so much “they find every species of falsehood to try to pull down this project, as if it doesn’t belongs to St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Energy, said that Petrocaribe supplies VINLEC with fuel and pays for the diesel used at IADC.
“Every month, IADC is supplied by VINLEC with diesel to the extent of EC$350,000 to $400,000, … and at any one time, you will find IADC owing VINLEC but you will find always that VINLEC owes Petrocaribe more.” (EC$1=US$0.37)
He said that in May, the IADC owed VINLEC EC$$5.1 million but VINLEC owed Petrocaribe $10.6 million.
“So, what happens, they exchange a cheque. In fact, VINLEC benefits because VINLEC holds Petrocaribe money a little longer and therefore they can keep it in the account and get a little money from it,” Gonsalves said.