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The elusive and grandiose PetroCaribe program remains in the spotlight tonight. That is because a summarized Central Bank statement of transactions from the Ministry of Finance has been circulating in the media ring and tonight comes with many raised eyebrows and a Government release to satiate the critics. Viewers may recall that in countless press conferences of the Prime Minister, he has categorically stated that the Petrocaribe money will be used solely for infrastructure and social programs. But the statement from Central Bank shows otherwise. It shows that the Ministry has been servicing debts and paying mid monthly salary commitments of several millions of dollars between February and March of 2014.

Doesn’t seem right, right? But there is a rationale behind what the transactions are showing on the bank statement says Financial Secretary Joseph Waight. The statement discloses two transfers, in March 2014 and March 2015, of 20 million dollars each from GOB’s PetroCaribe account to GOB’s operating account. And to that Waight says the Government is simply reimbursing themselves for money already spent…in the media this process is known as “juggling funds”.

Screen_Shot_2015-06-01_at_8.18.18_PMJOSEPH WAIGHT – Financial Secretary

The way it works is this that we are moving money from a holding account which is I think the statement that you have in front of you, that holding account it holds the proceeds of the Petro Caribe financing so that is the first stop when the money comes into government and then we from time to time transfer money form that account into a second account which is our general operating account and from that account everything is being is paid for the government, that is, everything being wages and salaries, operating costs, debt servicing and also including Capital Two programs including the Petrocaribe funding.  So the way we operate the account is this: we make the payments from our operating account regularly in response to what they call invoices raised in the system, invoices being from the suppliers or invoices being from the contractors and then in the case of Petrocaribe from time to time, we reimburse ourselves by drawing money down in block. Now in the case of this statement what happens was this: we reimbursed ourselves because we had forward looking, going forward, we had salaries and we had debt service coming up in March. So what we did really was this: we drew some money, replenished for money spent already. So while on the surface it says it’s going for salaries and wages, that in fact is true, we're making payments from the operating account to meet salaries and wages going forward, but in fact what was happening we were reimbursing ourselves for money already spent and that is the short answer.

Waight says before Petrocaribe there were cash crunches and sometimes GOB borrowed money from the Central Bank by treasury bills and notes to pay off their obligations. And while that statement made its rounds in the media, so did a fiery press release from the Government this afternoon. The release states and we quote, “GOB’s record of transactions keeps full track of the monies moving in and out of both the operating account and the PetroCaribe account.


It is therefore easy to reconcile and square those movements and show that transfers of PetroCaribe funds into the consolidated operating account are always only to replenish, in that consolidated operating account, what GOB has already spent from it on PetroCaribe projects. To repeat, all PetroCaribe transfers into the consolidated operating account are only to put back what has been taken from that account and spent on the PetroCaribe contracts” end quote.

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