WEST Indies Petroleum Limited (WIPL), the company at the center of an investigation by opposition finance spokesman Julian Robinson over the Common External Tariff (CET) waiver on its fuel imports, has provided a scathing response, calling the inquisition “curious and bewildered”.
In what WIPL called a detailed response to questions posed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday to Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke, the company also called for a level playing field in the oil import market.
“Our company finds the Opposition Spokesperson’s investigation curious and misguided, as we believe the relevant question is why, for an extended period of time, we were denied the waiver when the waiver was automatically given to a range of players in the market,” the company said in a statement to the Jamaica Observer on this point.
“The fact is that although West Indies Petroleum – a Jamaican-owned Jamaican company – qualified for the waiver, baseless and legally unfounded reasons were advanced for denying our company the relief that was approved for several other companies who also qualified for same.”
Left to right: Stacy Francis, Sales Manager, Island Lubes; Chad Heins, Castrol Regional Sales Manager for the Americas; Tarik Felix, Director of WIPL; and Ruben Izarra, Business Development Manager at Castrol, are preparing to sign an agreement.
The company said that while other oil importers had received the waiver, when it tried to get a renewal it had to wait four months for the relief.
“So we are compelled to ask: why is it easy for foreign companies to have all the opportunities to do business in Jamaica, but it seems that obstacles are being invented and placed in the way of established Jamaican companies?” he asked.
“We are also obliged to [ask the] question: Why are we victimized and forced to spend our resources fighting for a level playing field in our country? It would be good for the opposition spokesperson to indicate if he thinks that the CET should be reimposed for all market players or if WIPL should continue to be victimized and discriminated against?
He argued that if the CET – a common import tax applied equally across Caricom – is reimposed on all importers, the price at the pump will rise.
An aerial view of tanks at West Indies Petroleum at Port Esquivel, Clarendon.
WIPL also provided a timeline of events, which includes its appeal of the decision to deny it the tax exemption.
1) On February 1, 2021, WIPL filed its request for suspension of the Common External Tariff regarding Mogas 84 and 88 with the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET).
2) WIPL has requested an extension of the tax relief to be granted for the period of January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021.
3) After the application was submitted, the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC) contacted WIPL and advised it to revise its application in several respects and forward the revised application to the MIIC.
4) On February 2, 2021, WIPL redirected its revised request to the MIIC. The revised request requested a suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET) for the period from February 15, 2021 to February 14, 2022.
5) Following the submission of its application by WIPL, the MIIC requested several documents as part of the approval process. WIPL responded to all inquiries.
6) On February 2, 2021, WIPL received an email from the MIIC asking our company to complete a Caricom-approved suspension form.
7) WIPL complied with the request and submitted the Caricom-approved suspension form. On or about April 7, 2021, WIPL was verbally informed that its application had been rejected by the Ministry of Finance and Public Service (MoFPS). WIPL did not understand why its application was rejected given the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED)/Secretary General approval.
8) WIPL has therefore requested a hearing with the MIIC, MSET and MoFPS in order to be informed of the reason for the decision and to make its case with respect to Caribbean Community law.
9) WIPL was first informed of the reasons for the decision and instructed to appeal to the Minister of Finance and Civil Service.
WIPL was forced to hire its legal team to appeal to the Ministry of Finance and its portfolio minister.
WALKER… known for his negotiating skills.
WIPL also provided submissions regarding its qualification for the CET suspension.
1) WIPL has noted that it has complied with the required procedure for requesting a CET suspension/waiver, which includes the procedure provided by the Caricom Act.
2) WIPL also challenged the reasons for the decision to deny it the waiver, namely that (a) the plaintiff must have been a regular customer of a regional supplier before Petrotrin closed its operations, or (b) the plaintiff is new, or (c) the plaintiff had a preferential treatment in the past.
3) WIPL noted that the reasons given lack a credible basis because the terms referred to do not comply with the Caricom Act and, in particular, Article 83(2).
4) WIPL also argued that the conditions cited by the Technocrats to deny it the waiver are ultra vires, arbitrary and discriminatory. She objected to being completely excluded from obtaining a benefit expressly provided for by the Caricom law and applicable to the company.
5) WIPL noted that its attorney also pointed out that local fuel suppliers that compete with it are currently receiving the tax relief.
6) WIPL has argued that the criteria imposed by the Minister for Finance and the Civil Service place it at a distinct disadvantage in the fuel market and is therefore concerned that the measures are designed to keep WIPL out of the fuel market. fuels.
WIPL said it also noted several additional factors:
a) The CET on the affected products was suspended by COTED in 2018.
b) WIPL will never be eligible for suspension of the CET if the conditions not supported by law, which have been cited by the Ministry of Finance, are met.
c) WIPL was never a regular customer of a regional supplier before Petrotrin’s closure.
d) In 2016, WIPL requested to be registered as a customer of Petrotrin. It took a two-year period for the approval to be processed and granted.
e) WIPL was authorized to buy from Petrotrin in January 2018.
f) It was not until March 2018 that Petrotrin sent WIPL an offer to purchase gasoline and diesel.
g) During the period of delay, it was entirely reasonable for WIPL to source petroleum products from other external sources.
h) In November 2018, Petrotrin closed its activities. Given this development, WIPL did not have the adequate opportunity to become a regular customer of Petrotrin
i) WIPL is not a new company and did not have a franchise agreement in the past.
The company added that, based on what happened, it believes it is fair and just that the decision to deny it the waiver be reversed. He stated that the legal opinion received is that the decision of the Ministry of Finance is inconsistent with Caricom law since it complied with the procedures described and qualified for the suspension/waiver of the CET and obtained the approval COTED as required through the competent authority.
“Our lawyer also stressed in no uncertain terms that the decision to deny us the waiver should be reconsidered and that we urge that a decision be made within a reasonable time so that, if we object, we have time to appeal. , if necessary, to the Caribbean Court of Justice for redress,” he concluded.