PM announces sweeping package of debt relief and concessions
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves (left) made the announcement of debt relief at the Argyle International Airport during a ceremony for the signing of an air services agreement between St Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela.
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April 26, 2022

PM announces sweeping package of debt relief and concessions

All of this country’s remaining PetroCaribe debt — approximately EC$189 million — has been forgiven by the Venezuelan government.

Agreements reached between St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and the South American country will also see the revival of the PetroCaribe programme, and donations of 150 prefabricated houses, asphalt for road repairs and monthly shipments of free urea for farmers.

These latest developments were announced by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves today, April 26 during a ceremony for the signing of an air services agreement between St Vincent and the Grenadines and the South American country.

Gonsalves, who left the state for medical treatment on Easter Sunday, returned today on Venezuelan airline, ConViasa, whose first commercial flight to SVG touched down sometime after midday.

“As a believer in Christ, and having left here on the day, Easter Sunday when on that day, historically, we were promised to be redeemed by his blood, because of what happened in Caracas and which I’m about to report upon, I must say, as has been said in the Good Book, that the Lord works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform,” the prime minister said at today’s ceremony just before announcing the concessions.

Gonsalves revealed that he attended several meetings while at hospital, with Raul Li Causi, the president of the Alba Bank and Delcy Rodriquez, vice president of Venezuela.

He was later joined by Camillo Gonsalves, this country’s finance minister, who was at the time attending the IMF, World Bank annual spring meetings.

The finance minister is said to have arrived in Caracas on Saturday morning to attend a number of detailed technical meetings, including one on April 25 at Miraflores, the presidential palace, with President Nicolas Maduro.

“I outlined in Caracas, not only the impact of COVID, but also the terrible socio-economic impact of the volcanic eruptions last year, followed by Hurricane Elsa that president Maduro agreed to give 100 per cent debt relief for the remainder of our PetroCaribe debt,” Gonsalves said.

Both governments are currently tallying the precise figure but the Vincentian prime minister estimates it to be EC$189 million — about nine per cent of SVG’s national debt.

Additionally, Gonsalves announced that Maduro has also agreed to reduce by 50 per cent, the debt owed by other OECS countries who are members of PetroCaribe.

“And this is a country which is under illegal universal sanctions by great powers and that makes this act of solidarity all the more touching and meaningful and we must recognise that across this entire Caribbean and the world,” he said, as he continued to sing praises of the South American country’s generosity.

Gonsalves also announced the revival of PetroCaribe, which was previously brought to a halt as a result of sanctions.

The revival of the programme will see participating countries receiving a 35 per cent discount on the price of fuel.

When placed in the context of rising fuel prices due to COVID19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Vincentian prime minister said this will mean relief for Vincentians who consume electricity.

Local farmers will also directly benefit from the recent agreements that have been reached between Venezuela and SVG.

“The farmers, I want you to hear because I explained to President Maduro the hardship you are enduring with the increase of fertiliser and urea. They do not have the fertiliser but they have the urea and they will provide on a monthly basis to us, free shipments of urea. And for the roads which have been damaged by La Soufriere, and by bad weather, he has agreed to provide us also, free asphalt,” Gonsalves said.

Maduro has apparently also agreed to provide 150 prefabricated houses to assist persons in Norths Windward and Leeward, whose homes were destroyed or damaged as a result of the 2021 volcanic eruptions.

“And last night, he said to me that when I come back, I must say to the Garifuna and Kalinago people, that he, the president of Venezuela loves you very much; the indigenous people who suffered so terribly as a consequence of the volcano in the north east of this country,” Gonsalves said.

He continued: “…when on the night of Holy Thursday, I felt a terrible pain in my side and had to go to the hospital here on Good Friday to do all the tests and when the doctors say I must go on to Cuba or Venezuela to do my usual check ups, they understand the meaning — and I understand it — the Lord works in mysterious ways. His wonders to perform”.

“I want the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines to know, and especially those who have suffered from the volcano and all those who have had their lives disrupted by COVID, that what is in your mind and in your heart, but not in your mouth, the good Lord has given me the words to express what is in your hearts and in your mind, to your benefit and to God’s glory…”