Member of Parliament for St George North Gline Clarke Friday warned that the sale of the National Petroleum Corporation (NPC) may still be on the cards.
And in making his contribution to the debate on the NPC Amendment Bill in the Lower House Friday afternoon, Clarke suggested that the Freundel Stuart administration was merely fattening up yet another cash cow for market by way of a proposed rate increase.
The Opposition legislator emphasized that based on recent history, the ruling DLP may be seeking to quickly increase the profitability of the NPC to make it more appealing for would-be buyers.
His comments came on the heels of recommendations from the Stuart-appointed Fiscal Deficit Committee of the Social Partnership that the state-run Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL, as well as the National Petroleum Corporation (NPC), the statutory body responsible for managing the distribution of the country’s natural gas supply, be sold, with the green light already given by Government for the divestment of the BNOCL subsidiary, the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited to the Sir Kyffin Simpson-led Sol Group.
However, that US$100 million deal is currently tied up in the courts. It also is the subject of a Fair Trading Commission investigation, amid shouts of unfair competition coming from Sol’s lone competitor Rubis West Indies Limited.
Based on these developments, Clarke said: “We have to ask ourselves, what next is this Government looking to privatize?
“One wonders what is Government’s long-term goal in this exercise. Is the Government prepared to the sell the National Petroleum Corporation (NCP) and is therefore putting it in a commercial exercise that it would attract would-be buyers?” he queried, adding: “I want to find out if this is happening.”
Interjecting on a point of order, Stuart vehemently denied the implication, dismissing it as “mischief”.
“I piloted this Bill this morning and I gave the reason why this Bill is before the House and in the reasons I gave, none had anything to do with privatization and readying the NPC for sale.
“This is an indecent piece of mischief on the part of the honourable member to imply any such thing,” a ruffled Stuart said.
However, Clarke responded saying it was an attempt by the Prime Minister to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.
“We have seen spinners and in fact, we just saw spinners here at Kensington [Oval] and we know a googly when we see one,” the Opposition MP said in using a cricket analogy to dismiss Stuart’s retort.
“We know the one that flips and the one that flip backs and you can’t see it all. And the Prime Minister is aware of these things. We know the spinners and the spin they put on balls. I am asking the Government the question, ‘if they have plans to sell the NPC?’ If they don’t, they should come right out and say they have no plans,” Clarke contended.