Opposition Demands Explanation For PCJ Closure

People’s National Party’s (PNP) Shadow Minister of Mining and Energy, Mr. Phillip Paulwell, M.P., is calling on both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Energy, the Hon. Fayval Williams to provide an immediate justification of the Cabinet’s decision to close the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) and subsume its functions in the Ministry of Mining, Energy and Technology (MSET).

In a statement this afternoon, he said the decision is curious, ill-advised and will plunge Jamaica’s energy sector into uncertainty; and create a crisis in the sector on the sole basis of this action by the government. He said the announcement of the closure of such an important Government statutory corporation should not be approached as casually as it were yesterday in a staff meeting at the PCJ.

Mr. Paulwell said so ill-considered and ill-timed was the policy decision, it came on the eve of the first meeting of the reinstated Energy Council, which held its first meeting today. He said the decision to close down the PCJ was taken without the benefit of any discussion with the council, the Parliamentary Opposition or consultation with industry stakeholders.

The PNP Shadow Minister recalled that the PCJ was established by statute in 1979, as Jamaica’s policy response to the world’s energy crisis, aspects of which persist today. He said the need for a specialised energy sector agency remains necessary to conduct the day to day management of one of Jamaica most critical sectors of industry, commerce and domestic households.

Mr. Paulwell said the government must provide a detailed statement on the way forward and how the Ministry could take on the functions of the PCJ while simultaneously absorbing the responsibilities of the NESoL, a decision announced by the Prime Minister some months ago.

He said the statement should also include what would become of the Oil and Gas exploration projects, for which PCJ is holding and supervising contracts for the continuing offshore investigations. He also wants to know, how the cabinet decision would affect the future of Petrojam, the state owed Oil Refinery, of which PCJ is the parent company.

Mr. Paulwell also expressed concern for the PCJ workers and called the Minister to immediately say what would become of the highly skilled members of the PCJ workforce and how many would be absorbed by the Ministry.

“The staff welfare is very important and the feasibility of Ministry absorbing the agency’s staff should be thoroughly examined”, he said.

The PNP spokesman said he also wants to know what decision has the cabinet taken in relation to the vast assets of the company, including the 2,000 acre Font Hill property in St. Elizabeth, which includes a beachfront park and creation area.