The France-based international petroleum company RUBIS wants some straight answers from the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration on the sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL).
Chief Executive Officer of RUBIS Caribbean Limited Mauricio Nicholls said hints by Government that it was no longer interested in selling the oil storage facility were not good enough.
What was needed, Nicholls said, was concrete word on what the Mia Mottley-led administration intended to do about the facility.
“I have read what has been reported in the paper but I have not had a chance to discuss this in any detail with the Government,” Nicholls said in reference to a report carried by Barbados TODAY quoting Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds as casting doubt on the controversial sale.
“I think the Government is still in the process of making some decisions for the future of the country, so I would really like to discuss this issue with the Government before we can determine what we would like to do,” he told Barbados TODAY.
The BNTCL has been mired in controversy since the then Freundel Stuart Government confirmed in January 2017 that it had signed an agreement with the regional petroleum giant Sol for the sale of the storage facility in a bid to raise US$100 million to shore up its foreign reserves.
This was met with strong opposition from RUBIS, which itself had put in a bid for BNTCL. RUBIS filed an application in the High Court for judicial review of a decision to approve the inclusion of a 15-year moratorium clause in the sale and purchase agreement between a Sol subsidiary and the Barbados National Oil Company Limited, BNTCL’s parent company.
As the controversy surrounding the proposed sale continued, RUBIS offered Government US$50 million for joint ownership with Sol, but the offer was turned down. In November last year the Fair Trading Commission ruled against the sale of the state entity, stating that sections of the sale bid would hurt competition and were, in fact, unlawful, a decision RUBIS said preserved a competitive fuels marketplace and protected individuals and enterprises that consume fuel.
Up until the last minute the Stuart administration was attempting to revive the sale, but it ran out of time and was swept out of office in the May 24 general election.
There has since been questions regarding the sale of not just BNTCL, but also the Hilton Barbados Resort, another state asset the Stuart administration had unsuccessfully attempted to shed for another US$100 million.
However, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds last week stopped short of saying the BLP Government would no longer proceed with the sale of the two entities, telling Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of a Caribbean Aviation Day conference that the privatization was a “last resort”.
“The BNTCL has not yet been put before Cabinet. We are on the voyage of discovery with respect to some other financial atrocities. But the fact of the matter is that the same principle applies. The sale of the BNTCL is not at this stage perceived as being a sensible solution to the country’s economic fortunes,” Symmonds said.
However, Nicholls said he intended to meet with Government to discuss the oil storage facility, although he would not say if the meeting had been confirmed or when it would be held.
In the meantime, the RUBIS boss said, the new administration needed to be allowed some breathing room as it determines where state assets fit in Barbados’ recovery plan.
“We realize that we need to give the Government some time and we will sit down with them to see what their intentions are on the sale of the BNTCL. We have reached out to Government for such a meeting but I prefer not to go into any details about it,” Nicholls said.