Notes From The Margin

July 29, 2008

Venezuela Presses Its Claim – The Propaganda War Starts

We have tracked two stories on Venezuela’s claim of Barbados’ waters in the Venezuelan media today. The tone of one is actually quite strident.

The first article:

NGO reports Barbados is bidding oil blocks in Venezuelan waters

The government of Barbados has launched an oil and gas bid for 26 offshore blocks, two of which are allegedly located in part in Venezuelan waters, claimed on Monday Aníbal Martínez, head of non-governmental organization Frente Nacional Pro Defensa del Petróleo Venezolano (National Front for the Defense of Venezuelan Oil).

Martínez said that the government of Barbados put 26 oil and gas blocks for tender stretching more than 70,000 square kilometers. He added that there are two blocks in the bid, called Botton Bay and Crane Bay, 70 percent of whose area would be in Venezuelan waters.

“This amounts to an area of 5,200 square kilometers. It is a hostile act on the part of Barbados, and we have to be on alert. Even if it was one square centimeter, we cannot let this to happen,” said the Venezuelan oil expert.

The second article is a follow up

Claims of sale of oil licenses by Barbados

Venezuelan Minister of Energy and Petroleum Rafael Ramírez reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in possession of the evidence attesting to the sale by Barbados of licenses for oil drilling in Venezuelan maritime areas.

“We took the official letter to the appropriate channels; the Foreign Ministry is working on it. This has been the case in the past, where countries, well, awarded licenses for areas that are beyond their jurisdiction and by talking, directly speaking, things are eventually placed where they should be,” said the official.

What will also be interesting to watch is the reaction of Caracas to Barbados claims to the outer continental shelf. What is legally Barbados’ southernmost waters Venezuela considers to be its exit to the Atlantic (hence the Trinidad/Venezuela treaty) However Venezuela never made a treaty with Barbados, and Barbados has no reason to negotiate one as it is a small slice of their territory. The Venezuela/Trinidad treaty has no impact on Barbados or Guyana, so it will be interesting to see where this goes.

It is unlikely that this will go away.  Further Barbados has little reason to take on Venezuela’s claims other than Venezuela has the means to agressively enforce its claims on the area by force of arms.

Hopefully this will not go that far.

Marginal

How Trinidad Recognised Venezuela’s Claim to Most Of Guyana’s Land

Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land

Marginal Picks Up His Pen – Venezuela’s Claim of Barbados’ Waters

June 16, 2008

Marginal Picks Up His Pen – Venezuelas Claim of Barbados’ Waters


After much thought we’ve decided to come out of retirement to blog on the subject of Venezuela’s claim of Barbados’ waters. This is not a full re-opening of NFTM but we felt that given our history of blogging on Venezuela and it’s territorial claims that we might be able to provide some clarity on this issue. This article is freely reproducible (once the source is attributed). In fact we would ask that given the potential seriousness of the claim that members of the blogosphere and other media propogate this story.


Marginal

Like Barbados Free Press we saw the story today in the Venezuelan publication PetroleumWorld entitled “Barbados’ Troubled Waters”

The new government of Barbados opened the bidding process for rights to offshore blocks for oil & gas exploration on Monday and will close it on September 30. The winner announcement will be made on Nov 20th. More than 20 companies were present this week in the bid kick off, including among others, Exxon, Gazprom, Lukoil Shell, BHP Billiton of Australia, Hess Oil Company, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Marathon Oil and Murphy Oil, all of the United States, StatoilHydro, Petro-Canada, and Petrobras from Brazil. However, there is an issue that the IOC’s perhaps have not taken in account, that is that two of the block are in venezuelan waters, the Bottom Bay blocks Ad I and Ad II. We expect that the venezuelan government will issue a diplomatic note to the government of Barbados asking for clarification and the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA will issue a warning to the OIC’s on the issue.

The two blocks in question are the two southernmost blocks that are up for bid (Highlighted in red in the illustration). Venezuela’s claim rests on two pillars

1. It’s claim to approximately half of Guyana’s land area.

Venezuela claims everything west of the Essequibo river, the historical reasons for this can be found in our post. Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land

2. Venezuela’s Maritime Treaty with Trinidad.

In 1990 Venezuela and Trinidad agreed a treaty delineating their maritime boundary. This treaty can be found on line HERE.  This treaty allowed the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s offshore oil resources. However this treaty had two unforeseen impacts. First it tacitly recognised Venezuela’s claims on half of Guyana, and secondly it pushed Trinidad’s territorial claims north which is what led to the Maritime border dispute between Barbados and Trinidad. The impact of this can be seen in our post How Much Gas Does Trinidad Have? Indeed the main sticking point in the negotiations was the Trinidadian position that Barbados should recognise the 1990 treaty. The UNLOS council held that two countries could not bind a third without it’s consent and hence the 1990 treaty had no impact on Barbados.

The maritime boundaries are currently as seen in the diagram below. The purple line indicates Trinidad’s initial boundary claim and the brown line indicates the claim they put forward to the UNLOS Council. The green line represents the final decision of the UNLOS Council.

The result of the UNLOS is that the 1990 boundary between Venezuela and Trinidad extends into what is (and always was) legally Barbados’ waters.

Venezuela is now seeking to exercise a claim in an area that it has no right to claim. The waters under discussion can ONLY be Venezuelas if you accept that

1. Half of Guyana is actually Venezuela.

2. That two countries (Venezuela and Trinidad) can commit a third and fourth countries (Barbados and Guyana)  to some form of agreement or treaty without consulting them and without their agreement.

In short, the Venezuelan claim is baseless.

Marginal

Other interesting information on this topic.

International Law Environment by Professor Robert Volterra

Venezuela and Bird Island

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Bird Island Again! – Grenada in Maritime Boundary Dispute With Venezuela.

April 15, 2008

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish….

It’s been a year since NTFM first debuted in the blogosphere, in that time we have done 198 posts which have been seen by 42,000 visitors, we have logged some 650 comments and unfortunately we’ve also dealt with 10,000 emails of spam. Small numbers perhaps in comparison to Barbados Underground or Barbados Free Press, but we think that we have established our own following and we’ve also established a reputation as a quality blog with high standards.

It’s been an interesting ride, that has taught us much. The search for quality articles has led us down some interesting paths and turned up some surprising stories. We are particularly proud of the work we’ve done on the whole Venezuela issue as it relates to the Caribbean. We remain deeply concerned that not enough is being done by the mainstream media to educate Barbadians about our South American neighbour.

We started a blog in large part because we were concerned about what was being said about Barbados in the blogosphere. Based on what some very biased people were saying, it would be very easy to equate Barbados with Zimbabwe. That is not the Barbados we know, the country we know and live in may not be perfect but it’s a far cry from what is portrayed on BFP and to a lesser extent BU. A dermatologist following their approach would describe someone with acne as having flesh eating skin cancer. We felt there was an unfilled space for balance and thoughtfulness, a space that over the last year we have tried (with uneven results we admit) to fill. We freely admit that there is an important role for Barbados Underground and Barbados Free Press in ensuring democracy and freedom in Barbados, we may disagree with their methods but we believe that they are truly motivated by good intentions and that in the long run they are a healthy addition to the Barbados social scene, we wish them well.

However after a year, we have found the demands of running a daily posting blog difficult to meet. In that regard we have considerable respect for David over at BU and even the BFP crew. Given the demands of our day to day lives we find that we can no longer devote the time to NFTM that will maintain the standard that we want to have.

In short NFTM has had it’s day. We have to admit, it’s difficult to put down something you have carried for a year, but it is far better to go out with style than to dribble off into obscurity.

To our well wishers thank you for your kind comments, to our critics… when you think about it, you’ll come around to our opinion😉

Farewell

Marginal

Marginal puts down his editorial pen.

April 13, 2008

Is This Venezuelan Propaganda?

On page 8b of our Sunday Sun paper was a full page ad purporting to be paid for by the Honourable Hamilton Lashley, promoting the Venezuelan PetroCaribe agreement. It’s headlined “Petrocaribe The Way Forward” The ad is extremely well produced in terms of design and writing style, however it just doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing that an opposition parliamentarian would produce. Let’s face it when parliamentarians are in opposition they don’t have alot of money to throw around.

Our position on PetroCaribe is well known a quick search of this site will lead to many articles on what we think of Mr. Chavez’s initiative. In a nutshell we think that Petro Caribe will saddle the countries of the english speaking Caribbean with massive debt and make them subject to the whims of a Venezuelan government that historically has shown itself to be hostile to the region’s best interests.

When we read the ad we felt it read like a Venezuelan press release, so we went looking on the net and….

GUESS WHAT!!!!

IT DOES READ LIKE A VENEZUELAN PRESS RELEASE!!!!

The following paragraph comes from “Hamilton Lashley’s” ad.

“What is Petrocaribe?

Petrocaribe is an Energy Cooperation Agreement proposed by the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, in order to resolve the imbalances in access to energy resources through a new system of favourable exchange, equity and fairness among the countries in the Caribbean region. “

Now the following is from Bolivarian News Australia which is released by the Venezuelan Embassy there. We’ve put a copy on our server in case the source document should suddenly disappear😉

“Petrocaribe is an Energy Cooperation Agreement proposed by the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela in order to solve the world’s asymmetries to have access to energy resources, through a new exchange scheme: favorable, equitable, and fair among the countries of the Caribbean region…”

What are they odds of these two articles being written by different people? Probably about the same odds as winning the lottery five times in a row!

Marginal

For Further Reading:

The folly of Petro Caribe

Venezuela and Bird Island

Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Bolivarian News Australia 27th December 2007 (on NFTM Server)

April 11, 2008

A note to the BLP…..

Filed under: Uncategorized — notesfromthemargin @ 9:56 pm

We recently cruised over to the political blogsone evening when were were bored to see what was being posted there. We’re not regular visitors to either of the political party blogs (you already know the general scope of what they are going to say so you can generally spend your time more usefully elsewhere) . The DLP blog hasn’t been updated since January 13th, and there seems to have been a small update to the party website about the recent double taxation agreement. However what caught our eye was the ending to the following article:on the BLP blog.

MINISTER FLIP FLOP

Surely this new administration can not be taken seriously.
NO OTHER NEW PROGRAMS AS PROMISED IN THEIR MANIFESTO
NO NEW PROGRAMS TO RAISE MONEY TO PAY FOR ANY NEW PROGRAMS
THIS NEW ADMINISTRATION HAS A LONG WAY TO GO

WILL THE ELECTORATE GIVE THEM MORE THAN FOUR YEARS ???????????

It’s the last line in particular that caught our eye. We had a strong sense of deja vu going back to the BLP first term in office. They had been elected tenuously much like the current government and the mindset amongst DLP supporters (and the party) ran something along the lines of….

“This is just some mistake by the part of the voters, we will reclaim the government that is rightfully ours in five years, after all Barbados is DLP country, we are the party of Errol Barrow. This is a temporary abberation that will correct itself.”

Basically they felt at the time that they were the default choice of government, that no one could do a better job than them and that they were “rightfully entitled” to the government that the BLP interloper had gotten from them just because they had made a few mistakes.  This mindset left them with two seats in the house of assembly.

Voters do not make mistakes, they make decisions, acting as if the DLP government is some form of misfunction of democracy will almost certainly guarantee that the voters will decide against you the next time they have to choose.

Be advised!

Marginal

April 9, 2008

To The New Airport Board… Can We Have Luggage Trolleys Please?

We noted a news story in the paper recently about the new board of directors at the Grantley Adams airport taking up office.

THE NEW Grantley Adams International Airport Board will be working to improve Barbados’ tourism product.

Chairman of GAIA Inc., Rawle Brancker, said “the airport is a very integral part of the tourism product that is Barbados”.

“We will improve upon what we’ve met at the airport and work towards enhancing it and strive for the excellence that is required to make Barbados’ tourism product always No. 1,” he added, during a brief interview recently.

The airport falls under minister of public works and international transport Mr. John Boyce, however Mr. Richard Sealy as minister of tourism will have more than a little influence we are sure. WE on the margin have one request.

Can we please have luggage trolleys like an airport in the REAL world?

Marginal

April 8, 2008

Somehow We’re Not Convinced!

Filed under: Banking,Barbados,Capitalism,Caribbean,Economy,Globalisation,Media,mergers — notesfromthemargin @ 6:39 pm

Has anyone else noticed how all the major bankers are lining up to tell us how the take over of RBTT by RBC won’t affect competition in the Barbados banking market place? First John Beale and now Oliver Jordan who are both saying the same thing….

PRESIDENT and CEO of RBTT Bank Barbados Limited, John Beale, does not foresee any significant impact on the local banking sector from the recently approved amalgamation between RBTT and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

Speaking to Business Monday, Beale stated I dont think it will have a great impact, I dont think it will affect the competition.

You’ll pardon us but somehow we can’t see that the removal of one of the major banks from a marketplace that verges on an oligopoly won’t affect the competition.

Maybe we’re just cynical but despite the goodly efforts of Mr. Beale and Mr. Jordan we remain rather skeptical.

Marginal

April 7, 2008

Is The Barbados Stock Exchange Becoming Irrelevant? Is it already?

We on the margin were reflecting on the recent conclusion of the Neal & Massey BS&T takeover. Neal & Massey were successful of course in buying the entire company. Some 97% of shareholders willingly took the offer and the remainder were bought out by N&M following the 90% rule. (If you own 90% of a public company you can take possession of the other 10% of shares just by paying for them). So lock stock and barrel, BS&T as an independent entity is history. What was once considered the symbol of white corporate power in Barbados has been sold (but that is another post).

So what happens next? Of course the company will be de-listed from the BSE, it’s now a wholly owned subsidiary so it won’t be traded. As a result the numbers of companies on the exchange take a hit. This will be the latest in a series of reductions in the number of public companies in Barbados. Island Properties Ltd. was taken off the exchange by Colin Brewer & Tony Hoyos, Life of Barbados was taken down by the Mutual (now Sagicor), BWIA was grounded by the Trinidad Government. If we want to think back that far Plantations Ltd. went in a long agonizing slide into oblivion. Now we have BS&T joining the ranks of companies that were once public.

Along with this slow dwindling, there is a scarcity of new companies going on to the exchange. Of course unless you count Sunbeach (we won’t go any further on that one). To make matters worse there’s an overwhelming tendancy for people to buy shares and then hold onto them for long term appreciation. So we have far more buyers than sellers. The mutual funds have added a new dimension but the returns (if you take out the BS&T takeover) have been pretty much moribund.

Merging the regional exchanges will buy time, however the fact of the matter is the investment arena in Barbados is pretty stagnant. If you listen to the rumour mill, the stories floating around about “back room deals” may or may not have substance, but they don’t engender confidence in smaller investors.

The management of the exchange must see the trends, and also must realise that from a long term view, if they do not take action they will be consigned to the same file folder that currently holds BS&T.

Marginal

April 4, 2008

Beachfront Development In Barbados, A Look Into The Future…

Now that the dust has had a chance to settle, we on the margin have been reflecting on the sale of Cheffette Holetown. At $40 Million for the site Cheffette would have taken the offer. How many years of profit is that from the Restaurant? Further that’s enough money that they could build a second restaurant nearby and still have money left over. As a business deal this is fairly straight forward, Cheffette got an offer that was simply too good to turn down and that is that.

From an economic point of view, the Holetown site in condos will contribute more to the economy than it would as Cheffete. Certainly it would be part of the foreign exchange earning sector rather than being a user of foreign exchange. Economically this is good for Barbados as well.

However one of the very few remaining windows to the sea will close when condos go up on the site. Locals will have to go in either at the Holetown Police Station (the old Pizza House restaurant) or go all the way up past Sandy Lane to access the beach. Heading south after that we believe the next opportunity for beach accesss is Paynes Bay.

Now we on the Margin can’t argue with Condos, but we do have a specific issue with beach development. The development of a condo project allows the developer to make his money back quickly, with relatively little risk. A hotel means that the developer takes the business risk and all of the headaches that come with running a hotel. So if you are a developer, a condo is lower risk for a higher return and an extremely quick payback period. This is why hotels are closing for condos, we on the margin doubt that anything the new administration does will change this. (Despite what Mr. Loveridge says)

The other factor at work here is that there’s only so much beach front land in Barbados. The simple law of supply and demand means that prices for land on the coast will skyrocket in the face of huge demand fed from outside of the island. Hence we can hear about $40 million being paid for a relatively small piece of land. Remember all of those little chattel houses in the Garden in St. James? Little gold mines each one of them.

Now because the land costs are skyrocketing developers need to do two things 1. increase the value of each condo unit and 2. increase the number of units on the lot. This means that development along the beach is going to be high value, and is going to maximise the land use (so much for beach access for locals) and further is going to go up and up and up. This results in what we are seeing at Paynes Bay in St. James where the people on the land side of highway one stop seeing the sun around 3.00pm in the afternoon each day.

If you watch the BTA advertisement above it talks about

“…an island that hasn’t been homogenised and supersized and commercialised away from even being Caribbean anymore”

While these words are being said images of high rises next to the beach are being shown.

Ironic isn’t it?

We think that there is a need for a policy intervention by Government that puts the brakes on this form of development. Now this will have to be done with a light touch otherwise we run the risk of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. One possibility is restricting future high rise structures to the land side of the road. We are not saying no to development of the coast, we are simply saying if we continue as we are going now we will end up being one of those islands that no one wants to go to. The economics of it are inexorable.

Now is the time for an enlightened policy response.

Marginal

March 31, 2008

Cat Piss and Pepper Removed From Blogroll.

Filed under: Bajan Free Press,Barbados,Cat Piss and Pepper,De Standpipe,Uncategorized — notesfromthemargin @ 6:30 pm

The article posted today was in our view not acceptable. These three sites have been listed as “on probation”, and this clearly violates the boundaries of that (in our view anyway). My hope for these sites was that they would provide a strong voice of an opposition supporter’s view, so far there have been a few good articles but for the most part it has been fairly quiet.

For the moment the other two sites will remain, but they should consider this a warning.

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