The argument for producing the controversial PetroCaribe Loans Act is that the funds were not really a loan. The Prime Minister, in his arguments in the National Assembly on March 30 of this year, were, and we quote, “You don’t know what you are approving until you actually collect the money, in consequence of the peculiar arrangements. All the other provisions of the Finance and Audit Act remain enforced. You are only exempting Petrocaribe from that one provision that in the normal course, requires you to get prior authorization from the National Assembly to borrow upwards of 10 million.” So, according to Government, they didn’t really see the fund as a loan and at any rate, they would not know how much monies they would be getting at any given time; hence the reason to create the law retroactive, to make the Petrocaribe fund into a loan. However, in a press conference back in June of 2012, the Prime Minister clearly stated that it was a loan and he even gave an estimated annual figure as to how much would be collected per year. Here is that statement from 2012
“Puma is prepared to source all the fuel for Belize out of Venezuela, so if we can restart the Petrocaribe process. If now all our fuel is being imported can be imported from Venezuela, then you can see how the amount that the importer pays to us which we in turn pay to Venezuela, or the amount of that where we are able to retain as a long term loan will increase exponentially. It is going to be borrowed money but it will be money that we can use in terms of programs to benefit… I can tell you looking in terms of when last I saw the figures, we are looking at well in excess of a hundred million dollars per year that we will be able to obtain by way of the Petrocaribe arrangements. If we can stitch these deal together we will be able to get that kind of money to use for budgetary and public sector investment programs.
The Prime Minister’s estimates made in 2012 seem to be spot on based on the figures given by the financial secretary.