As Prime Minister and Minister with responsibility for Energy, and on behalf of the Government and People of Grenada, I welcome all of you here this morning to this very important event.
Coming into office in 2013, one of the major priorities of this Government has been to find a way to ensure that the supply of energy is available, accessible and affordable to every citizen of this tri-island state.
While we are nowhere near where we need to be in terms of reaching our goal, we are one step closer today.
For that, we have to acknowledge our benefactors and long-standing friends of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. They have heard our cries, and they understand our predicament, and are taking steps to help us meet the needs of the unfortunate, who, through no fault of their own, have often found themselves crippled by debilitating electricity costs, and unsafe and unsustainable generation practices.
In 2005, when our then NNP government signed the agreement that would bring us into partnership with PetroCaribe, we understood clearly that we needed to do something differently. We understood that we needed to bring cheaper diesel to GRENLEC, and that we needed to continue the quest for renewable energy sources.
We might not have known how essential this was going to be to our survival, but our foresight to bring PetroCaribe here, which was eventually realized in 2007, demonstrates our clear and consistent policy regarding energy options and and associated costs for our people.
From what we have seen through the years, we are confident that had we not moved on that arrangement then, the costs of electricity here would have been much higher today.
Since our agreement, we have been importing one product — diesel.
The opening of this plant means that we will soon start importing our second product under the agreement.
This is both timely and necessary.
Grenada has been given the lead in the region on renewable energy. The international community too, is looking at us as a Small island Developing State, to embark on renewables, and promote the use of clean energy in our region.
To date, while we have done everything we can, we know that we need to change the ordinances if we are going to fulfil that mandate.
The objective of introducing this LPG product today, as per the PetroCaribe facilitation, is to revolutionize the use of clean energy in Grenada at an affordable price to households. The new cylinders are not only affordable, but they are also safer, user-friendly and last longer.
The commissioning of this LPG Plant will serve to improve the livelihood of the father and mother in Darbeau and Beaulieu; in La Fillette and L’Esterre; and the furthest corners of this Nation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we will continue the quest to replicate what is happening here today in different avenues that amount to the same end goal: energy options for our citizens — in whatever areas of use.
We are again grateful to our friends from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for understanding that.
Our relationship is one that is deeply rooted in mutual respect and the improvement of the lives of the poorest among us.
Through the years, Venezuela has assisted us in a number of areas, including the Simón Bolívar La Calome Housing Project; small projects like the construction of the market square; the completion of the hospital; the St Patrick’s playing field, among others.
We have already received very positive indication that they will assist in helping us meet our target of providing Tablets for our students across the Tri-Island State. This is a promise we are all eager to fulfill as we strive to ensure the global competitiveness of our children.
Much more recently, the Government of Venezuela moved swiftly to approve a monetary contribution for Grenada, which will go a long way in supporting some of our capital expenditure programmes for 2015, including the development of our infrastructure and the bolstering of our social programmes to meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.
We acknowledge that Venezuela has its own problems; but even while they deal with theirs, they are reaching out to help us. This is a noble feat and we are eternally grateful.
We look forward to further areas of cooperation, especially in the area of Agriculture. We believe that we can increase production in agriculture through increased financing to the farmers.
I know that the Minister of Agriculture is eager to speak to our friends on the possibility of accessing the Alba Bank facility for financing in this regard.
As a geographically close neighbor, we hope to also export much of our agriculture products to Venezuela in the near future.
My friends, thank you for your varied, necessary and consistent support. Rest assured that the Government and People of Grenada are committed to helping you in whatever way we can, in the fulfilment of your own developmental and political needs.
We have observed the recent problems in Venezuela, and we all believe that there is an urgent need to resolve, through dialogue, any issues between The Bolivarian Republic and the United States. The Government of Grenada and indeed, your CARICOM neighbours, are willing to help in that regard.
The peace and prosperity of our region is paramount to all of us, especially if we are to even begin the conversation, or the thought of us leaving a legacy of which future generations can be proud and grateful.
This is why, as a region, we continue to applaud deceased President Chávez’s vision of using the vast energy resources of Venezuela to aid not only the poor people of your country, but also those of the Eastern Caribbean.
That vision has already revolutionized our development in so many ways.
Today, therefore, we are proud to announce that this LPG Plant will be named the Hugo Chávez Plant, in honour of the former great visionary who was selfless in helping the region.
My friends, we know that that there is still a long way to go in achieving the optimum in energy affordability and efficiency for our citizens, and for that, we welcome the recent announcement by Venezuela that a fund has been established to continue to assist in that regard.
Today is another step in our collective march toward a more sustainable future for all.
Business as usual in the area of energy is no longer an option.
Not when our current electricity costs are among the highest in the region.
Not when these costs prevent our next generation from a proper meal to nourish their bodies and minds; and definitely not when the rest of the world is already moving in the direct of environmentally friendly, affordable and safe practices in everyday household functions.
It is against this background that we look forward to the optimal use of this Hugo Chavez LPG Plant.
Once again, I thank our dear friends from Venezuela for joining us here today, and for their generosity in the development of the region.
Please extend on behalf of the Government and People of Grenada, an invitation to President Maduro to visit us soon.
We are confident that our relationship will continue to be strengthened as our governments work together in the best interests of our two peoples.
I thank you.