Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says that his government is not trying to hide its PetroCaribe debt from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which said this week that two-thirds of that debt is not reflected in the public debt figures.
Gonsalves told reporters on Wednesday that the debt to PetroCaribe is in the Government accounts but not reflected in the debt profile inside of the Estimates.
“What happened is this: Part of the arrangement had to do with the original discussion which we had with Venezuela. And that is why we did it that way,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
The IMF said in a statement on Monday that only EC$71 million of the EC$183 million PetroCaribe St. Vincent owes to Venezuela is recorded as government debt.
“… there is nothing which is hidden because we give them (IMF) the information all the time. I also gave the information to the House [of Assembly],” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance.
Gonsalves noted that he has read out in Parliament the amount money allocated to each programme or project in St. Vincent and the Grenadines using PetroCaribe loan monies.
“Every approval from PetroCaribe to any entity is done through the Cabinet. A memo comes from the PetroCaribe, and the decision is recorded in the Cabinet and the Ministry of Finance has all the information and I make the information available to the country and the House. There is absolutely no hiding,” Gonsalves said.
He said there is something that he would like to do further with the PetroCaribe debt, which he is discussing with Venezuela.
Gonsalves, however, did not elaborate.
“In the fullness of time, that will be made known,” he said.
He said the public would note that the IMF did not say that the PetroCaribe debt is close to the EC$1 billion mark quoted by the Bank of Nova Scotia, which the opposition has said it is inclined to believe.
The EC$183 million owed under PetroCaribe represents 8.7 per cent of SVG’s gross domestic product.
Under PetroCaribe, Venezuela’s oil initiative with several Caribbean nations, countries import oil from Caracas and pay for a portion upfront and keep the remainder as a low-interest 20-year loan to help fund social programmes.