Asot Michael Speech on The Ceremony Marking Handover

Today is a good day and represents yet another landmark achievement for WIOC and for Antigua and Barbuda.

It is a clear truism that a Government that prioritises its people is a good Government.

When this ABLP administration robustly pursued attaining the ownership of WIOC, after the dilly-dallying and failures of the previous UPP administration, some persons thought that the Gaston Browne-led administration was too ambitious.

Continuous failure over 7 years was turned into a spectacular success, through the vision, creativity and financial acumen of Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.

He deserves our unreserved and fulsome applause and acclamation.

Not only was the sale been completed, but WIOC has also been able to provide for several of this country’s needs. Of relevant interest is WIOC’s very positive impact on Antigua & Barbuda’s energy and tourism.

Indeed, these are two sectors integral to the prosperity of this little nation. WIOC has become one of the most empowering initiatives ever contemplated by any Government in Antigua & Barbuda for helping to attain wealth for the nation while reducing the propensity for large energy imports.

The value of WIOC to the citizens of this little paradise is to be heralded. Surely, we have seen the transfer of wealth from private hands into the public domain for the greater benefit of the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda.

While our country is an economy, it is also a society.

And just as we expect the people of the society to serve the economy, so should the economy serve the people.

The two are intertwined and integrated.

We need productive, energetic and diligent people to build the economy, so that, in turn, the economy can deliver jobs, the health care, the education facilities and the safety and security that people expect.

That is why the opening of this project this afternoon is so important.

It is not just about constructing storage tanks; it is about creating employment; it is about strengthening the economy; it is about building the capacity to deliver the betterment that our people want.

Today, therefore, we are witnessing not just a peal in WIOC’s development, but a significant jump in the path of rebuilding our country’s economy.

The Government and People of Antigua and Barbuda became the sole owners of WIOC. Baring the acquisition and purchase of the syndicate estate lands by the Father of this National and National Hero the late V.C. Bird Snr. there is no single accomplishment by any Political Leader or Government of this Country that has been of more historical and economic importance to the people.

The previous UPP administration with its many policy failures never had the gumption or tenacity to secure WIOC as a welcomed national resource.

Nevertheless, this transfer of wealth by getting ownership of WIOC was done to safeguard our energy security, as a major priority considering the enormous potential this would have on most other sectors in a resurgent economy.

There are moment in the history of a national when the quality of its leadership determines it fortune or fate.

Antigua and Barbuda is at once such moment.

Already, WIOC has been helping the Government make tremendous strides towards the objective of becoming the economic powerhouse in this region.

By establishing WIOC as a nationally owned entity, we have now ensured that our people have a stakeholder position in that sector even as we develop WIOC as an energy services company. We are able to invest in the entire energy value chain, as is the case with Exxon, Shell and most of the world’s major petroleum companies.

For instance, when it comes to bunkering, this ABLP administration has ensured that the cruise liners coming to our shores have the requisite facilities for fuel. This is a key selling point and has helped the island to attract even more cruise vessels with this type bunkering service.

Ladies and gentlemen: To that end, WIOC has received an award and commendation from Shell for outstanding performance during its first season of bunkering Royal Caribbean’s cruise vessels. Also, given the success in Antigua, Shell’s plans for bunkering, now involves the expansion of its bunkering business in Antigua. The prospects for us in Antigua & Barbuda have been enhanced starting with the crucial decision and actions of Prime Minister Gaston Browne in ensuring our ownership stock in WIOC.

In relation to petroleum supply and storage, Antigua & Barbuda is a major storage hub for petroleum products for the Eastern Caribbean; storing large quantities of product for the Sol Company. Clearly, our role is critical in meeting the oil and energy needs locally and for neighbouring islands as well.

Prior to Government ownership, WIOC longed for investment. Its tanks needed rehabilitation and the entire company structure required revamping. This Government with Prime Minister Browne at the helm has made the necessary investment to catapult WIOC into a major player in the regional fuel storage area.

Our storage terminal has been rehabilitated and expanded to store the most product ever in WIOC’s existence.  This is why we celebrate today as a great day in the Energy sector for Antigua and Barbuda.

With this synergy of effort flowing from the guidance of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, my Ministry, and the CEO and staff at WIOC, we are now generating significantly more revenues and profits for the people of Antigua and Barbuda.  This fact highlights the shortsightedness of the UPP and naysayers like its current political leader.

I am pleased to report that ground has already been broken and plans have already commenced for the erection of two new tanks for even more considerable storage. WIOC is on the move!

Ladies and gentlemen WIOC has never had a petroleum stock out in the history of its operations. This is demonstrative of our reliability to meet the needs of the tourism, energy and transportation sectors, as well as to service every household in Antigua & Barbuda.  For that the management and staff need to be commended.

I would also like to extend our heartfelt appreciation and thanks to the International contractors Cape Caribbean, our energy partners Sol, and all the local contractors who worked tirelessly on this project to bring us to this point where we are today.

We applaud you on a job well done!

Ladies and Gentlemen: There are sure signs of economic prosperity, for our nation and I would like to briefly mention just a few of these key performance indicators.

WIOC has recorded, for example, a higher demand for Gasoline with a 12% increase in its gasoline sales for the period January to June 2017 when compared to the same period in 2014.

Put differently, in 2014 under a lazy UPP Government, WIOC’s sold 26,851 barrels of gasoline monthly, whereas in 2017, these sales under ALP Government average 30,020 barrels per month.

Increasingly, there has been growth in cooking gas or LPG consumption in Antigua & Barbuda. There has been an increase in demand for LPG of 7% for the period January to June 2017 when compared to the same period in 2014 under the lackadaisical approach of the UPP Government.

A similar occurrence has been seen in the sale of LPG to the commercial sector, with a 5% increase in the sale of bulk LPG due to more restaurants opening as well as higher hotel occupancy, for period 2014 to 2017.  These are the figures that tell the true story of the progress made in the last three years.

Under the ABLP administration, WIOC introduced ultra-low Sulphur diesel. This has boosted our service offering to Antigua and Barbuda’s vital yachting and marina industry. As savings for the country, the local industry customers no longer have to depend on St Maarten for fuel. This is another tangible example of progress for our country and it is important that we set the record straight.

Obviously, when you hear the mischief being created by the current UPP leader and surrogates, clearly that they prefer to deal in the politics of deception and distraction.

We must therefore be even more vigilant and resilient to reject the distasteful and acidic accusations being manufactured by the (UPP). Through distracting mouthpieces, the UPP has been a purveyor of divisiveness and bad news who constantly preach gloom and doom. Rather than help to create a progressive society, the leadership of the UPP has been busy defacing this nation’s reputation.

Ladies and Gentlemen the achievements I’ve just listed illustrate the forward looking and strategic approach to energy, which our administration is pursuing. In particular the majority acquisition of WIOC presents Antigua and Barbuda with an opportunity to become directly involved in a sector of our economy which impacts directly onto the lives of all Antigua and Barbuda nationals – the petroleum sector: and in doing that to make sure that the country’s national interests are pursued in a holistic and integrated manner.

The same holds true for the Airline industry.  The exciting growth in new airline carriers calling at Sir V.C. Bird International has resulted in increased sales for WIOC since we took office. WIOC has consistently and adequately supplied jet fuel to meet the aviation needs of Antigua & Barbuda, and will continue to do so when the new airport opens in Barbuda.

As the Minister responsible for Tourism, Investment and Energy, I am pleased to report that this ABLP Government is fully obligated to being accountable to the citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda.

This year is anticipated to be another bumper year for WIOC and I am confidently optimistic of the benefits that will redound to this society.

With the purpose to provide bountifully for Antigua and Barbuda, and the determination to succeed, I shall continue to do all that is expected of me given my ministerial portfolios and the stated policy objectives.

Working together in unity, we all can make this country a living paradise for all. V.C. Bird in 1967 made a statement that is profound and relevant for us today. He said: “The needs of one are the concern of all; progress for one means progress for all. Our own best interests dictate that we should come together” for the good of our people.

Ladies and gentlemen success stories such as the performance of WIOC allow us to show and tell the story of service and success for and by the people!

While this is not the end of the road, the people of Antigua & Barbuda can rest assured the importance that this Government gives to job creation, the expansion of services, the enlargement of our investment portfolio, and gaining maximum returns for the benefit of all.

Ladies and gentlemen: The transformation of Antigua and Barbuda into an economic powerhouse is a fact and not a dream. The handing over and commissioning of these fuel tanks, demonstrates what can be achieved with a Government resolute on supporting private enterprise, while empowering our beloved country to reach its fullest potential.

Let us continue to work together to shape and mange this great transformation that is underway in Antigua and Barbuda.