After a local newspaper hastily printed a fake news claiming that the Chinese state owned enterprise Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) had pulled the plug on the multi-billion-dollar refinery modernization project in Curaçao, the Chinese were quick to point out that “GZE has neither pulled out of Curaçao nor Myanmar”.
GZE is correct on both counts. In Myanmar GZE did not pull out but were kicked out by the Myanmar Investment Commission when it ran out of patience with GZE for not delivering on its promises due to severe financial problems. In Curaçao, GZE is working overtime to convince the authorities that it can handle the project even though the now failed Myanmar refinery was what GZE used one year ago to showcase their ‘abilities in the oil business’. GZE’s representatives even promised without as much as batting an eyelash to convert the area around the refinery in a “Las Vegas-style strip with casinos and amusement parks.”
There is a growing realization among many countries that Chinese massive projects come at an extremely high price. Curious is also the rate at which ‘friends of China’ are scrapping huge Chinese projects. Beside the abovementioned Myanmar refinery, three other projects worth 20 billion USD have been cancelled in just a few months by Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar – all three China’s neighbors. Among those are the Nepalese Budhingandaki project which was stopped because of Chinese “irregularity and imprudence”, and the Pakistani Diamer-Bhasha project, scrapped due to Chinese “financial factors”.
About a year ago when I started researching GZE in relation with the Curaçao refinery I advised to proceed with caution. After being on the subject for many months I think it is clear that we have come to a point where we have to cut ties with GZE. It is a lightweight and inexperienced player that we can ill afford to handle the future of our refinery. The due diligence report to be released and hopefully be made public, is expected to corroborate this claim. On top of that, the recent suspension of the Director of the Curaçao Refinery (RdK) speaks volumes. Government resoluteness is scarce here in Curaçao, but let us hope that sooner than later the responsible Minister cuts the Guardian knot rather than having it drag on or having China make the final decision. Time is definitely not on our side.