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St Vincent to ‘borrow back’ loans repaid to Venezuelan bank

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says St Vincent and the Grenadines has obtained permission from Venezuela to “borrow back” US$9 million that Kingstown paid on loans owed to Alba Bank.

The money had been held in an escrow account at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, ECCB, as sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States prevented its transfer to Caracas.

Prime Minister Gonsalves, who was in the South American country for medical treatment last week, said 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 said.

“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 Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves, who joined him in Caracas, had the idea of asking the Nicolas Maduro-led government to allow Kingstown to use the money.

“And he put forward two proposals, which have been accepted by the Alba Bank,” Gonsalves said.

One of the proposals was to utilise US$4 million to procure vessels for St Vincent’s fishing industry.

“And an arrangement would be made with particular fishers to train them. These are bigger vessels … at a higher level requiring other kinds of training and building a fleet,” Gonsalves said.

“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 other US$5 million is being earmarked for the repair of Little Tokyo, the bus terminal in Kingstown that services the east of the country.

Gonsalves said the finance minister had informed the Governor of the ECCB, Timothy Antoine, of the development, but noted the paperwork was pending.

“This is really absolutely an incredible package of support,” he said, referring to the outcome of the meeting in Caracas.

Gonsalves had said previously on his return to Kingston last week that Venezuela cancelled Kingstown’s debt under the PetroCaribe oil initiative and agreed to cancel 50 per cent of the debt owed by the other members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

Caracas also promised Kingstown 150 prefabricated homes for people affected by La Soufriere volcano eruptions in April 2021 and Hurricane Elsa last July, in addition to supplies of of asphalt and fertiliser, Gonsalves said.


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