St. Vincent and the Grenadines has obtained permission from Venezuela to “borrow back” US$9 million Kingstown paid on loans owed to the ALBA Bank.
The money had been in an escrow account at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, as sanctions imposed on Venezuela prevented its transfer to Caracas.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told the media last week that during his recent visit to Caracas, his government obtained permission to use the money.
“We have in that account, which we have paid, which money belongs to the ALBA Bank in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela US$9 million and something. And we had paid the money there because we didn’t want to have any challenges arising with the sanctions,” he told a press briefing in Kingstown on Thursday.
He said that Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves, who joined him in Caracas, had the idea of asking the Nicolas Maduro government to allow Kingstown to use the money.
And he put forward two proposals, which have been accepted by the Alba Bank,” Gonsalves said, adding that one is to allocate US$4 million to buy vessels for the fishing industry.
“And an arrangement would be made with particular fishers, train them. And these are bigger vessels… at a higher level requiring other kinds of training and building a fleet, because there is a lot of fish out there, there’s a lot of conch out there, there’s a lot of lobster out there and we have to be able to harvest it.”
The prime minister said that the finance minister — who also attended and spoke at Thursday’s media briefing — was hoping to include in next year’s budget a sum for the repair of Little Tokyo, the bus terminal in Kingstown that services the east of the country.
“… he’s looking for a number in the region of $5 million to rebuild Little Tokyo. And it has been agreed that we can, in a sense, borrow back that money which we had paid because it’s lying in the Central Bank not being used.”
Gonsalves said that the finance minister had informed the governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank of the development, adding, “… but, clearly, the requisite paperwork will have to be done, and so on and so forth.
“But this is really absolutely an incredible package of support,” he said, referring to the outcome of the meeting in Caracas.
During the talks, Venezuela cancelled Kingstown’s debt under the PetroCaribe oil initiative and agreed to cancel 50% of the debt owed by the other Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Caracas also promised Kingstown 150 pre-fabricated homes for people affected by the April 2021 eruption of la Soufriere and Hurricane Elsa last July, as well as asphalt, and fertilizer, the prime minister said.