Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Jamaica House job for Hylton
Observer Reporter
Thursday, November 07, 2002


HYLTON... to concentrate on liquid natural gas project

PRIME Minister P J Patterson will today name former energy minister Anthony Hylton as one of his top aides at Jamaica House, with responsibility for pushing through the government's ambitious project for converting Jamaica's major energy source from oil to liquid natural gas (LNG) as the main energy source, government sources said last night.

Hylton, who won plaudits as foreign trade minister, prior to going to the energy ministry a year ago, is also expected to help Patterson oversee Jamaica's international trade negotiations -- a portfolio for which the Jamaican leader has responsibility in the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

Hylton served for two terms as the parliamentary representative for Western St Thomas, but lost his seat in the October 16 general elections to the Jamaica Labour Party's James Robertson.

Because of Patterson's philosophy against appointing to the Senate, during the same Parliament, people who had lost in a run for the House of Representatives, Hylton could not find a place in the new Cabinet but the prime minister had indicated that Hylton's was a talent he wanted to utilise.

Both Patterson and Hylton have been coy about what assignment was in store for the former MP, but ruling People's National Party (PNP) sources said that the prime minister was keen to have him continue the LNG project.

Hylton, first as deputy minister and then as minister for foreign trade, was widely praised for his role in negotiating, on behalf of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries, to Cotonou Agreement in trade and aid, with the European Union.

He has been hailed, too, for his efforts at ministerial conferences of the World Trade Organisation and planned Free Trade Area of the Americas. But it was a job that kept him out of Jamaica for long periods and made his constituency shaky, PNP officials say.

It was on the hope that Hylton, with more time at home, might have been able to shore-up his seat that Patterson transferred him to the energy ministry a year ago.

The ambitious Hylton immediately carved the LNG programme as his pet project, having apparently won Cabinet support for the idea, and set off to Japan and the United States in search of potential partners.

Hylton's idea is for the bauxite/alumina sector and the light and power supplier, the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) to convert to LNG and then, possibly, the public transport sector.

LNG, as Hylton has argued in his crusades, would be a cheaper and cleaner source of energy than oil. Imported oil accounts for over 90 per cent of Jamaica's energy source.

The programme would involve the investment of up to US$150 million for a LNG terminal, possibly in St Thomas, and the importation of up to 1.3 million tonnes of LNG a year.

Giving Hylton LNG as a special project would mean that Patterson would bypass Phillip Paulwell, the commerce, science and technology, within whose portfolio the light and power company has been placed.

But he would interface substantially with Dr Paul Robertson, who was given the new portfolio of development, operating from the Cabinet Office.

Part of Robertson's job is to clear out bureaucratic brush to enable investment and economic growth.