BNTCL deal still up in the air

Four months after it announced an investigation into the proposed sale of the state-owned Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL), the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) today said it was still mulling over the deal.

“The probe is ongoing . . . no ruling has yet been made,” an FTC official told Barbados TODAY this morning against the backdrop of reports that the sale application had been turned down on the grounds that a proposed 15 year moratorium to the Sir Kiffin Simpson-led Sol Group would give the company a monopoly on the storage of petrol, in breach of the Fair Competition Act.

Back in January this year, the FTC’s Chief Executive Officer Sandra Sealy had announced the probe into the proposed sale, while pointing out that Sol and the state-run Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL) were duty bound by law to “provide relevant information” about the sale/merger and to seek the Commission’s approval.   

Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Leader Mia Mottley yesterday weighed in on the controversial US$100 million deal during her reply to the Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals delivered in Parliament on Monday night by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler.

In making the presentation, Sinckler had said the cash-strapped Freundel Stuart administration was still banking on the BNTCL deal to go through as it seeks to erase a $537.6 million fiscal shortfall before the general election that is due within a year.

However, in support of the scrutiny of the deal by the FTC, Mottley said: “Anybody who wonders about the worthiness of that Commission, particularly now with the [proposed] sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited, need not do so.”

In fact she said the regulator was standing up for the people of Barbados in the breach, where the Cabinet of Barbados had fallen.

“Can you imagine the Cabinet of Barbados was prepared to give the purchaser of that company a 15-year moratorium where nobody else would have the right to store diesel or gasoline or fuel products in this country against the law of this land?

“[However], the law of this land did not give the Cabinet that power,” Mottley said, while suggesting that Sinckler had already come to the realization that the Sol deal could not go through.

“I hope that they do not seek to bring legislation in this country to distort the powers of either the Fair Trading Commission of the law courts . . . because this is a country still governed by the rule of law,” the Opposition Leader added.

During her three-hour presentation, she also applauded the former Minister of Consumer Affairs and Opposition Member of Parliament for St Michael North Ronald Toppin for the “sterling work” he had done in creating the FTC.

Government is expected to take in a net of $70 million from the deal if sanctioned. However, there has been strong resistance from Sol’s main competitor, Rubis, which is currently challenging the matter in court. 

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