In a statement, Mr. Paulwell said Wigton is a profitable national asset which is important for ensuring Jamaica’s energy security and for producing clean, renewable energy at affordable costs to consumers.
Mr. Paulwell is recommending a public stock offering with a significant number of shares reserved for staff purchase, as part of an employee share ownership plan, as well as a sizable block of shares set aside for purchase by public sector workers.
In addition, the Opposition energy spokesman says the public share offering should be accompanied by a major marketing and communication campaign by the government to drum up broad public interest, especially among ordinary Jamaicans, in buying shares in the entity which he estimates to be valued at upwards of J$15 billion.
In order to facilitate broad-based participation in the offering, there should also be a capping of the percentage of shares that any one individual or institution can acquire.
In the statement Mr. Paulwell said he is concerned that more than two years after the current government publicly stated its intention to continue the Wigton divestment initiated by the previous People’s National Party (PNP) Administration, the process has encountered an unexplained delay.
He noted that with the entity earning some US$20 million annually, the country needs to be assured that Wigton and its divestment are not affected by the mismanagement and corruption that have plagued the energy, science and technology portfolio in recent times.
The Wigton plant which produces some 62 megawatts of electricity from wind for sale to the Jamaica Public Service Company, was developed in three phases as a subsidiary of the state-owned Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica.
Incorporated in 2000, Wigton was part of Mr. Paulwell’s Ministerial responsibility from 2002 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2016. Funding for the project in the amount of almost US$100 million was provided by the PetroCaribe Development Fund, another institution created by the former PNP Administration during Mr. Paulwell’s tenure as Minister of Energy.
“Affordable renewable energy is important to drive real growth in the economy and to improve the lives of the Jamaican people and I think the people should have a stake in any future growth through broad profitable ownership of the Wigton asset,” Mr. Paulwell said.
He added that while large investors are important for the accumulation of wealth and the creation of jobs in a market economy, inclusive growth is only possible when people, including workers and professionals have a vested stake in mainstream economic activity. “The far-reaching changes that were realised in the energy sector under the PNP Administration were done in the interest of catalysing real growth in the Jamaican economy as well as creating economic opportunities for the average Jamaican while improving the social and economic lives of all the people,” Mr. Paulwell said.
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