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ONLINE READERS COMMENT: Jamaicans should own a share in Petrojam

Sunday, January 20, 2019

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The Editor,
Dear Sir or Madam:

Petrojam: The objective ought to be to have it owned, via the Jamaica Stock Exchange, by a wide cross-section of the Jamaican people. No single individual or company should have possession of more than a small number of shares. Even with divestment to the people, the State would retain majority control for a time or perhaps permanently. To move toward this goal, however, the State must first have full possession.

The route to full possession should preferably not be compulsory takeover. If the reported size of proposals made to the Venezuelan company is accurate, an offer closer to what the Venezuelans were asking should be considered as the first step. The next would be a negotiation conducted at the highest level. It would take place against an either-or background unstated and unthreatened but clearly evident from the pending acquisition bill. Implementation would only follow a failed negotiation, as a friendly negotiating stance could show.

What Jamaica would not agree to is the sale by the Venezuela of its 49 per cent to a third party. That would be a non-negotiable. But many other terms remain possible, for example the inclusion of some payment over an extended period, and our continued intake of Venezuelan oil.

With direct communication an agreement could be reached within two months. It would open the way to the Chris Zacca report (for which a date earlier than May ought to be sought), to a decision whether to go forward with an upgraded refinery or some other option, and the pursuit of such funding as would be needed. Such an approach would win the support – with financial input – of Jamaicans everywhere, even the partisan, as well as not put off prospective foreign investors.

We should not insert into this 'economic' issue our judgement of the respective roles of imperialism and Nicolas Maduro's blunders in Venezuela's current mess. Let us just seek what is best for Jamaicans and not allow ourselves to be nudged or pushed to rebuff a people, now in great need, who stood by us in our moment of great need.

Horace Levy


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