While the Petrocaribe money seems to be all the rage these days in the media, hundreds of millions of dollars are being pumped into the Governments public purse to be used for poverty alleviation, human and social development. And while the Government is boasting and banking on several infrastructural works and facilities to benefit Belizeans, much is being said about the uncertainty about the future of the energy accord in light of a deteriorating political, economic and oil sector situation in Venezuela, which creates a great risk for countries dependent on the subsidized oil. Will Petrocaribe disappear any time soon? How much support does the alliance have in Venezuela today? What countries would be most affected by a weakening or end to the program, and what should member countries be doing to prepare themselves for a potential end to the energy alliance? These are all legitimate questions that shroud the Petrocaribe Alliance and international media are reporting the disappointing outcome of the 166th meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) held in Vienna, Austria, on November 27, 2014. Despite intense lobbying by Venezuela, the OPEC decided not to cut oil production, even in the face of declining oil prices globally, which currently stands at 79 dollars per barrel. The official communiqué of the meeting declared that "the Conference decided to maintain the production level of 30.0 million barrels per day, as was agreed in December 2011". This was bad news for Venezuela, which needs to sell oil at US$120 per barrel to meet repayments of its loan commitments; finance its domestic social welfare programme; provide the requisite goods and services for its people, including security; and to facilitate its PetroCaribe arrangements with neighbouring countries in Central America and the Caribbean.
So, at the moment, despite the unwelcome outcome of the OPEC meeting for Venezuela, PetroCaribe beneficiary countries, including Belize will continue to benefit even as the Venezuelan economy reels from the impact of US$40 a barrel less in income for its oil. On Friday, our colleague Jules Vasquez at 7news spoke to Prime Minister Dean Barrow about the shrouded uncertainty to which he (the PM) replied that and we quote ‘the prudent thing was to lay aside a sort of rainy day fund. So if the program stops anytime soon, we have enough to continue with prudent cautious spending funded by the petrocaribe proceeds for a number of years to come”, end quote.
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