The necessary information regarding the sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL) is now with the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), which is to decide whether or not the Sol Group of Companies will take over the oil facility, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has confirmed.
Insisting he did not want to appear to be influencing the regulatory agency’s decision, Stuart told Wednesday’s Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) luncheon at the Hilton Barbados Resort he was confident of a favourable decision soon.
“BNTCL is a storage facility and therefore I think that once the FTC sorts itself out and comes to its own conclusions, we should be able to see a clear way forward. I am optimistic that we will get this out of the way,” the Prime Minister said.
In announcing its decision to sell the terminal to Sol, BNOCL had said it would continue to source, import, own and distribute gasoline, diesel and fuel oil to the local market.
Stuart repeated that promised in his presentation to the BCCI luncheon, while stating the BNTCL had always been a private sector entity and all Government was doing was simply putting it back in private sector hands.
The Prime Minister gave a history of the facility beginning with its ownership by oil refinery company Mobil before its contract came to an end in 1998, through to its incorporation under the BNOCL after a $145 million investment in the Fairy Valley, Christ Church facility.
“The point I want to make is that this has not been traditionally a public sector function. BNTCL replaced another private sector operator, Mobil, and therefore the position the Government has taken is, this is not a state asset that was a state asset from time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary and all of a sudden the Government is offloading.
“What the Government has decided is that this is traditional private sector activity and there it should go back. And that is the context within which the decision was taken to divest itself of the terminal facility,” he explained.
At a separate event last evening, Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss, who has responsibility for the FTC, said the Prime Minister and all Cabinet ministers had received and reviewed “matters pertinent to the sale” and had determined that it was “in the best interest of the state that it should be divested at this time”.
Inniss, who was addressing the official opening of the new Platinum Motors Inc headquarters in Fontabelle, St Michael, made it clear he was in full support of the divestment, which is expected to rake in about $100 million.
He gave the assurance that the FTC would come to its own decision on the planned sale without fear or favour and in a timely and professional manner, and would present the necessary explanations and condition.
Inniss also reiterated that Government would remain the sole importer of fuel and would continue to set market prices.
“At the end of this exercise we ought to be satisfied that we would have obtained much needed foreign exchange, that the interest of customers are protected and that the process had been very fair and transparent. With these things in mind we ought to be able to drive the vehicles of our choice with reasonable petrol prices,” Inniss said.