Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is assuring the public that if Rubis West Indies Limited Dominica is to leave our shores, his government will step in and import petroleum products into the country.
The company distributes petroleum and aviation fuels, LPG and lubricants at several service stations throughout the country.
Earlier this month, Dominica News Online (DNO) received and published a copy of a letter sent to members of staff dated August 16, 2021, informing them of the company’s decision to temporarily withdraw its services, pointing to a loss of earnings for nearly five years.
Effective September 16, 2021, employees will be laid off for three months as Rubis, which has a network of nine service stations in Dominica, suspend their sale of fuel and await word from the Government which could affect the company’s future on the island.
When questioned on the status of negotiations between his government and Rubis during a live interview on DBS Friday morning, Skerrit revealed that the company had written to the Minister of Trade, Ian Douglas, some months back, and copied him in the letter, but he responded to the company himself and expressed his disapproval.
“I wrote back to them and said to them, look, this is a sovereign nation, you don’t speak to our people of Dominica that way and I instructed that they withdraw this letter to which they did,” he informed the nation.
According to the Prime Minister, who is also Minister for Finance, the petroleum company has been asking for a price increase, but he argues that given the price build-up mechanism that determines the final price at the pump as well as the wholesale price, his government is not paying the company less than what they pay for the gasolene, as they allege in the letter.
“Now, the question which Dominicans must ask themselves is, we have Rubis, we have NP, we have West Indies oil, we have Petro Caribe; the only company that is behaving in the way that they are behaving, is Rubis,” Skerrit stated.
He continued, “What they want is an increase to offset what they claim to be a loss or less profit. So it’s not that we pay them less than what they pay for the gas. Because when you look at the price build-up, you have a lot of variables that determine the final price and when we did the maths in terms of what Rubis is asking, they are asking for $1.76 more per gallon on the price of petrol.”
The prime minister disclosed that “out of good faith” the government has offered an increase in the in-transit fee as well and an additional offer of 0.23 cents while awaiting the audited statement from the company.
“I have said to them, look, give us 12 months, this is a difficult period for everybody. I don’t think anywhere in the world, including Dominica, we can pay more for petroleum products, it’s already 13 dollars. Let’s work with this 23 cents plus the increase we gave you on the in-transit loss and then within 12 months, we can continue negotiations and see if we can give you more…but it appears that Rubis wants all of this done at one time and it is not going to happen,” he maintained.
Skerrit speculated that the various letters sent out by the company may have been political pressure on his government, but such will not happen.
“You’re not going to force the government’s hand and believe that you can use all sorts of extortionist approaches to get to the government,” the prime minister cautioned. “And if Rubis goes, then I am saying to the people of Dominica that the government of Dominica, the treasury will import petroleum products.”
He called on the management of the company to accept his government’s proposal and take it “step by step” as this should not be a case where the company wins but the people of Dominica are impacted in the process.
He questioned if those who are calling for the government to budge on negotiations with the company, would be willing to accept the $1.76 price increase.
The Prime Minister stressed that his duty and obligation are to ensure that the Dominican people are protected while putting into place policies and systems to ensure that an investor who invests money in Dominica can make a profit and can survive.
He suggested that the company reduce non-essential expenses to save money and not go through with the decision which will impact staff while waiting on his government for at least the next 12 months.