ROSEAU, Dominica, June 29, (CMC) — Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, yesterday, called for an understanding of the financial situation confronting Venezuela, saying that the South American country is going through an experience that had confronted other Caribbean countries in the past.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the establishment of the Venezuelan oil initiative, PetroCaribe, Skerrit, a strong ally of Caracas, said that PetroCaribe had been able to survive despite the critics who claimed it was part of a plan to re-colonise the region.
“Time has revealed that those detractors were wrong and we have seen, not only in Dominica, but from Jamaica down to Suriname…the benefits of PetroCaribe to those countries,” he said.
“There are many people who considered PetroCaribe, when it just came in, as an effort that would undermine the economic and social stability of the participating countries. Every negative criticism that has been leveled against PetroCaribe, time has revealed that those detractors were wrong,” he added.
Under the initiative, Caracas allows several Latin American and Caribbean countries to purchase fuel on terms of preferential payment, with some of the funds going to social development programs in participating nations.
Skerrit told the ceremony that the financial challenges now facing Venezuela, which have resulted in food shortages and calls for President Nicolas Maduro to be replaced, are as a result of the drastic decline in oil prices on the global market.
“People (are) talking as if it is unique to Venezuela alone. Many countries have gone through those challenges,” he said, noting that many have had “chronic structural problems in their economies”.
“The United States have had its own crisis…people lost their homes, the unemployment rate was at an all-time high and they still, today, have serious chronic structural problems in the economy,” he said, recalling that Dominica had also faced a similar problem.
He reminded the audience that public servants were not being paid on time and that the government “borrowed heavily from Social Security to meet our …expenses and we had to impose on other countries and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) supported adjustment programs”.
He said people speak of the situation in Venezuela as if it is “the only place in the world that is going through an economic challenge”.
“Any economy, whether it is Saudi Arabia or Trinidad that depends heavily on one source of revenue stream …once there is a drop in oil prices you will have a challenge, because if you selling at US$75 a barrel and you are now getting it at US$30 it doesn’t take anybody with high degree of commonsense to understand that you will have a shortfall,” Skerrit said.
Venezuelan Ambassador to Dominica, Hayden Pirela, said “my dear friends, we all know that Venezuela is not at its best moments”.
The ambassador added, “We have a government who is trying to normalize the situation,” noting that while the situation there is “trying, the government maintains its commitments with PDV Caribe”.