There is no rationale for Government’s decision to sell off the family silver – the Barbados National Oil Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL), said leader of the People’s Empowerment Party (PEP) David Comissiong.
The attorney-at-law argued that the oil company was one of the most profitable state-owned corporations and should not be placed in the hands of the private sector.
In a statement last week, BNTCL’s parent company the Barbados National Oil Company Ltd (BNOCL) revealed it had signed an agreement with the Sol Group for the sale.
Officials are yet to disclose the details of the deal, including the price and terms, neither have they submitted the relevant documentation to the Fair Trading Commission for its approval.
Up to a year ago the oil company was valued at more than $70 million, although Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had said in his Estimates presentation in 2015 that Government had projected earnings of $75 million to $100 million.
However, recent investigations by Barbados TODAY revealed that Government could take in as little as $60 million from the agreement.
What is more, the BNTCL was profitable and has been contributing approximately $60 million each year to Government’s purse.
Comissiong, who said he was still researching the deal, would not comment on the earnings or valuation, but said he was certain the BNTCL was one of the most profitable state entities, and it made no sense selling it to the private sector.
“Why would the Government of Barbados want to divest itself of its only oil terminal? Why would it want to divest itself of a state enterprise that is extremely profitable? Why would it want to divest itself of an enterprise that, particularly if there is a finding of oil fields offshore Barbados that this enterprise is going to be critical as a conduit for any oil that is discovered in Barbados’ territorial waters? None of this makes any sense,” Comissiong emphasized.
“There is no proper rationale for our Government selling off this outstanding piece of the family silver, the people’s asset. This is one of the most prized people’s assets, one of the most prized assets that we, the citizens and people of Barbados possess and this Government is telling us that they are selling it, an asset that brings tremendous revenue into government coffers. Something is wrong here. Something does not smell right and I am very concerned about it.”
The vocal social activist said now was the time for Barbadians to speak out against the deal, charging for much too long the population allowed Governments to get away with decisions and actions that were not in people’s best interest.
“We should be demanding that we be given a proper explanation, a proper rationale for this action. This is not good enough. The Barbadian people, our people are too complacent. We tend too much to sit down and take what is dished out to us by successive Governments often to our great detriment, and we must put an end to that. The time has come when citizens must speak up, they must challenge Governments, they must insist on being given information, they must demand explanation and I think this is certainly one of those times,” Comissiong said.
While the Kyffin Simpson-led Sol Group is yet to comment on the planned deal, the main competitor, Rubis Caribbean, has voiced strong objection to it.
Chief Executive Officer Mauricio Nicholls warned in a statement last week the sale would hurt his company’s business and affect domestic fuel prices.
BNOCL said under the agreement it would continue to source, import, own and distribute gasoline, diesel and fuel oil to the local market.