Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock has accused the government of operating outside of the Finance Act in its management of PetroCaribe, an oil alliance of some Caribbean and Latin American nations with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.
Leacock, an opposition lawmaker, speaking in Parliament after a ministerial statement by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on PetroCaribe, noted that Gonsalves said that his government established two companies PDVSA SVG and PetroCaribe SVG, to facilitate the agreement with Venezuela.
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“But the finance Act of SVG states, Mr. Speaker, that all revenues or monies otherwise raised or received by St. Vincent not being revenue or other monies that are payable by or under any law for the time being enforce in St. Vincent and the Grenadines into some other fund established for a specified purpose shall be paid into and form the Consolidated Fund,” Leacock said.
He asked if Gonsalves was saying it is possible for the state to receive funds and not have them deposited into the Consolidated Fund.
“Because, Mr. Prime Minister, it has happened before on the Argyle matter. The departure tax, formerly received by the E.T. Joshua Airport, went straight to IADC and not into the Consolidated Fund with is outside the finance regulations of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Leacock said.
He was speaking of the decision of the government, without first passing a law, to divert the departure tax monies from the Consolidated Fund to the International Airport Development Company, a state company.
“It is not the first time, and I am suggesting to you that it is wholly improper for any state-to-state transaction to be in force, in which monies received are not placed and positioned into the Consolidated Fund and that the actions of the government at the moment are in fact unlawful and outside of the constitutional provisions for dealing with revenues,” Leacock said.
But Gonsalves, in response, noted that a law was passed to deal with the airport tax.
“After,” Leacock commented.
“I am just saying to you that a law was passed in respect of that matter. And I have just said to you that an appropriate act will be passed when a particular issue between PetroCaribe and PDVSA is clarified,” Gonsalves said.
“Mr. Speaker, I say to him that we are not functioning outside of the law,” the Prime Minister said after some back and forth with the opposition lawmaker.
“But you are not inside the law!” Leacock responded.