THE BILL FOR the rebuilding of Little Tokyo and purchasing of larger fishing vessels will be covered by US$9 million that this government intends to borrow from funds it has already paid to the Alba Bank.
Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, on April 28, explained that the government has been servicing its debt to the Venezuela based Alba Bank by paying into an escrow account at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.
“We have in that account, which we have paid, which that money belongs to the Alba Bank in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is 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,” the prime minister said at a press conference last month, some days after returning from a trip to Venezuela.
While in Venezuela seeking medical attention, Gonsalves, along with finance minister, Camillo Gonsalves attended several meetings, one of which was with President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela.
Gonsalves said the finance minister put forward two proposals, which were accepted by the Alba Bank to be able to use the funds in the escrow account.
At least US$4 million will be used to buy bigger vessels to be utilised in the fishing industry.
“…This is now 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 and the industry building in a very modern manner,” the prime minister said.
Plans were already in train to allocate funds in the 2023 budget for the rebuilding of Little Tokyo, the bus terminal for vans travelling to the Windward side of the island.
Gonsalves said the finance minister was hoping for at least $5 million to rebuild the terminal and through the agreement with Alba, the government
can now borrow back money paid, which are at the ECCB, not being used.
He added that the finance minister has already informed the Governor of the Central Bank on these developments.
“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,” as he again expressed gratitude to the South American country for its generosity.
PetroCaribe recently zeroed St Vincent and the Grenadines’ remaining debt under the oil initiative. During his visit, Gonsalves was able to broker agreements to forgive 50 per cent of the debt to other participating countries in the OECS.
The PetroCaribe initiative was also revived with more than a 30 per cent discount on the overall price of oil per barrel and in coming months, SVG will also receive, among other things, free asphalt and urea and about 150 prefabricated houses for persons whose homes were affected by the eruption of La Soufriere volcano and Hurricane Elsa in 2021.