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Finance Minister sets record straight on PCJ rationalisation

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Finance Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke is setting the record straight regarding utterances by Co-Chair of the Public Sector Transformation Oversight Committee (PSTOC), Danny Roberts regarding the planned nationalisation of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ).

Speaking on a radio programme on Friday, Roberts, a trade unionist by profession, confessed that PSTOC was surprised by the announcement last week by Energy Minister Fayval Williams that PCJ would be wound up and its functions carried out by her ministry.

Roberts made the point on radio that PCJ, whose subsidiary, Petrojam has been shrouded in controversy over possible fraud, excessive payments to staff and massive oil losses among other things, was not on the list of companies to be rationalised under the government's public sector rationalisation programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This rationalisation programme was sanctioned under government's just- ended Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (PSA) with the IMF and monitored by the PSTOC.

Roberts, who also heads the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute at the University of the West Indies, told the morning radio programme that not even the Public Sector Transformation Unit (PSTU) was aware that PCJ was among the list of public sector entities to be rationalised.

However, in responding to questions from the Jamaica Observer, Minister Clarke described Roberts's utterance as “unfortunate because he is not aware of all the facts.”

Dr Clarke emphasised that Roberts is correct in saying that the rationalisation of PCJ was not on the list of entities provided to PSTOC to be rationalised, divested, privatised or sold, as part of the overall public sector transformation programme with the IMF.

He explained that each year as part of the IMF programme PSTOC is provided with a list of entities, where action is being taken for transformation, admitting that PCJ was not on the list for 2016-2017, 2017-2018 or 2018-2019.

Positing that any listing of PCJ would be for 2019-2020, Minister Clarke stated that this would fall outside of the remit of the PSTOC, whose mandate would terminate with the end of Jamaica's IMF PSA programme.

Minister Clarke said last year he decided to place the PCJ on a broad list of government entities to be rationalised. This list, he explained, was outside the commitment of entities to be rationalised given to the IMF, which is monitored by the PSTOC.

“It is a fact the PSTU authored a Cabinet Submission by me which had the PCJ among public sector bodies to be rationalised,” the Finance Minister told Sunday Finance.

The Finance Minister pointed out that the rationalisation of PCJ would take some time to happen and therefore wouldn't be effective until late next year.

— Durrant Pate