WIPL wants a level playing field; says Robinson’s query is wrong
Regional energy company, West Indies Petroleum Limited (WIPL) has described as curious and misguided questions posed in Parliament by Opposition Finance Spokesman Julian Robinson over a waiver to the Common External Tariff ( TEC) granted to him.
WIPL said it faced an extended delay before accessing the relief that was automatically given to a slew of international businesses that were also legally eligible for the exemption.
Robinson used Parliament last week on Wednesday to ask Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke whether WIPL had received a waiver from the CET and the rationale for granting the relief.
The opposition spokesperson also demanded disclosure of the value of the waiver in terms of revenue foregone by the Jamaican government. Clarke must answer the questions at the expiration of 21 days.
WIPL pushed back in a statement to media on Sunday saying the company finds the opposition spokesman’s investigation ‘curious and misguided as it is of the view that the relevant question is ‘why was WIPL denied for an extended period of time the waiver while the relief was automatically granted to a range of market participants”.
Loop News Sources said several other major fuel importers, including Petrojam, which is owned by the Jamaican government, as well as at least three private international multinational companies would have access to similar aid. However, WIPL did not disclose which other companies obtained the waiver from the TEC.
“The fact is that despite the fact that WIPL – which is a Jamaican-based and Jamaican-owned company – qualified for the waiver, baseless and legally unsubstantiated reasons were advanced for denying the company relief. which has been approved for several other companies that have also qualified for the same,” WIPL explained in its statement released by its Senior Vice President Danville Walker.
WIPL said when the waiver was up for renewal, it inexplicably had to wait four months while obstacles were placed in its way to be denied the relief that had been granted to several other international companies.
“Why is it easy for foreign companies to have every opportunity to do business in Jamaica, but it seems that obstacles are invented and placed in the way of established Jamaican companies?” asked the bunkering entity in his statement.
“We are also forced to ask ourselves why we are victimized and forced to spend our resources fighting for a level playing field in our own country,” WIPL said.
WIPL said it would be good for Robinson to indicate whether he thinks the CET should be reimposed for all market players or whether WIPL should continue to be victimized and discriminated against.
The company said the fact is that if the CET is reimposed on all importers, the price at the pump will increase and furthermore all players will get the same treatment in the industry.
WIPL said it insisted on a level playing field and pushed Robinson away again.
According to West Indies Petroleum, Robinson should state whether he thinks the CET waiver should be applied evenly and fairly, including to Jamaican-based and owned companies, or whether what he describes as “an unfair atmosphere of victimization and discrimination” should be allowed to prevail.
WIPL said that in the interest of full transparency, it has decided to detail the timeline of events below, which includes its appeal of the Minister for Finance and Civil Service’s decision to refuse the waiver to WIPL . This was done through an appeal of the minister’s decision based on legal and legitimate grounds, the company said.
- On February 1, 2021, WIPL submitted its request for suspension of the Common External regarding Mogas 84 and 88 to the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET).
- WIPL has requested an extension of the tax relief to be granted for the period from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021.
- 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.
- 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.
- Following WIPL’s submission of its application, the MIIC requested several documents as part of the approval process. WIPL responded to all inquiries.
- On February 2, 2021, WIPL received an email from the MIIC asking our company to complete a suspension form approved by Caricom.
- WIPL complied with the request and submitted the suspension form approved by Caricom. 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 COTED/Secretary General approval.
- WIPL therefore requested a hearing with the MIIC, MSET and MoFPS in order to be informed of the reason for the decision and to present its point of view under the law of the Caribbean Community.
- WIPL was first informed of the reasons for the decision and directed 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.
Submissions made by WIPL regarding its qualification for CET suspension
- WIPL noted that it has complied with the required procedure for requesting CET suspension/exemption, which includes the procedure established in the law of the Caribbean Community.
- WIPL also challenged the reasons for the decision to deny it the waiver, namely a. The applicant must have been a regular customer of a regional supplier before Petrotrin closed its doors; or b. The applicant is new; or c. the applicant benefited from a preferential treatment in the past.
- WIPL noted that the reasons given lack credible basis because the conditions invoked do not comply with Caribbean Community law and in particular Article 83(2).
- WIPL also argued that the conditions cited by the technocrats to deny it the waiver are ultra vires, arbitrary and discriminatory. WIPL objected to being completely excluded from obtaining a benefit that had been expressly defined by CARICOM law and that applied to our company.
- Our lawyer also pointed out that local fuel suppliers who compete with WIPL currently benefit from the tax break.
- The criteria imposed by the Ministry of Finance and the Civil Service therefore place WIPL at a disadvantage in the fuel market. We were therefore concerned that the measures were designed to exclude WIPL from the fuel market.
We also note several additional factors:
- The CET on affected products was suspended by the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in 2018.
- WIPL will never be eligible for CET suspension if the non-statutory conditions that have been cited by the Department of Finance are met.
- WIPL was never a regular customer of a regional supplier before Petrotrin’s closure.
- In 2016, WIPL applied to be registered as a customer of Petrotrin. It took a two-year period for the approval to be processed and granted.
- WIPL was authorized to buy from Petrotrin in January 2018.
- It was not until March 2018 that Petrotrin sent WIPL an offer to purchase gasoline and diesel.
- During the delay period, it was entirely reasonable for WIPL to source petroleum products from other external sources.
- In November 2018, Petrotrin closed its doors. Given this development, WIPL did not have the opportunity to become a regular customer of Petrotrin;
- WIPL is not a new company and did not have a franchise agreement in the past.