Published On: Wed, Dec 6th, 2017

Curaçao accepts help from the Netherlands in the search for new tenant refinery

Rhuggenaath_RutteWILLEMSTAD, THE HAGUE - Curaçao is open for help from The Hague in the search for a tenant for the Isla refinery. A positive development, according to the Leiden professor Gert Oostindie, director of the Royal Institute for Language, Land and Ethnology (KITLV)

Curaçao wants the Netherlands to monitor the sanctions imposed on Venezuela. The Venezuelan state-owned company PdVSA is in fact the tenant of the refinery. Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath also wants the Netherlands to include the impact of certain measures in Curaçao in the international lobby.

The refinery on Curaçao, which PdVSA can operate until 2019, is part of an international political game. The Kingdom's largest neighbor depends on the income from its crude oil to pay the astronomical debts abroad.

The last thing Venezuela wants is to seize oil production. China and Russia have advanced billions of dollars in exchange for oil. And they still have to get that oil. “It is therefore logical that a Chinese state-owned company would be interested in our refinery,” says Rhuggenaath.

The Prime Minister takes into account that the takeover deal with the Chinese company Guandong Zhenrong will not take place, because it is uncertain whether the company can finance the refinery. Curaçao has only one year to complete a new lease contract for the refinery.

Meanwhile Rhuggenaath has approached the Kingdom embassies in Beijing and Hong Kong for 'contacts'. “There are large Chinese state-owned companies that are in refining. It is still possible that these companies are interested,” says Rhuggenaath.

“It is very sensible that Curaçao gets over its pride and starts talking with the Netherlands,” says Oostindie. “There has to be negotiation at a high level, everything has to be sorted out and it is determined whether it is a reliable company. It's about a lot of money.”

“Previously, former Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte and the party of Helmin Wiels did not want the Netherlands to interfere. We can do it ourselves, was the thought.”

Curaçao is autonomous in the Kingdom, with its own government and parliament that are in charge on the island. But not when it comes to relations with foreign countries; that is a matter for the Kingdom.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is looking closely at whether Curaçao is working with honest partners,” Oostindie says. “Because if it fails or causes problems, the Netherlands is called to solve it.”

Various geopolitical considerations are being considered. “The Netherlands could say: it is not in the interests of the Kingdom that the relationship with Venezuela becomes more complicated, or that Curaçao becomes even more dependent on Venezuela,” Oostindie says.

But also whether Curaçao has to enter the boat with China. “The Chinese agenda seems to be present as an economic superpower all over the world. That is possible, but geo-political risks are involved.”

Prime Minister Rhuggenaath does not want to go into details about the possible scenarios, but emphasizes to be aware of 'the geopolitical dimensions'. The Prime Minister states during his visit to The Hague in November that he personally spoke about this with Minister Halbe Zijlstra of Foreign Affairs.

“If you are in The Hague, it may look like a project of a small company in Curaçao. But whoever has visited Curaçao, or has flown over the island, sees how big that refinery is. You can see how great the impact is on our economy,” says Rhuggenaath.

Reported by Caribbean Network

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