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T&T’s Nicholas Paul won silver in the Men’s Match Sprint Sprint crown when the Pan American Elite Track Cycling and Caribbean Championship continued in Aguascalientes, Toluca, Mexico, yesterday.
This after crashing in his third ride when the match up against Canada’s Hugo Barrette for the crown was tied 1-1. Paul got back up and raced the decider but lost out to the Canadian, 2-1, in four rides after being allowed to race after the crash.
The 19-year-old local cyclist, winner of the Match Sprint Team gold on Wednesday with Njisane Phillip, Kwesi Browne and Keron Browne to repeat their feat from the recently held Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Colombia, got the better of Suriname’s Jair Tjon in three rides earlier in the day.
Paul, the reigning CAC Games Match Sprint champion as well started off slowly in the best-of-three semifinals, with Tjon winning the first ride in 10.016 seconds.
However, the T&T cyclist then turned on the burners for the next two rides, to win in 9.861 and 9.607 seconds, respectively.
Barrette who was second fastest in the Flying 200 in 9.457 also won his semifinal in three rides against Kevin Quintero, after losing the first ride off.
Quintero took the first ride in 9.923 seconds, but Barrette rebounded to win the next two, in 9.853 and 9.753.
Two years ago on Independence Day, Paul gave a gift to the nation and the cycling fraternity when he was crowned the Junior Pan Am Sprint champion which was hosted in T&T at the newly constructed National Cycling Centre in Balmain, Couva.
This Independence Day, Friday, Paul continued his growth and rise towards being a world-class champion by creating history at the Elite Pan Am Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico in the flying 200m ride.
He clocked a time of 9.378 and broke the Elite Pan Am record. His time recorded is also the second fastest in the world, 0.031 seconds short of the world record.
Paul then defeated Joe Christiansen of the USA in the last-16 in 10.411 and Colombian Santiago Ramirez (9.556 and 9.986) in the quarterfinals.
Browne also clocked a sub-ten time in the Flying 200 along with Bramble clocking 9.730 and 9.858 respectively which took them into the last-16. However, Browne was defeated by Brazilian Kacio Freitas in 10.191 while Bramble beat Colombian Hersony Canelon in 10.110 before he was ousted in the quarterfinals and was edged out by Tjon in two straight rides, 10.237 and 9.994.
Jabari Whiteman placed 13th in the 4 km Individual Pursuit clocking a time of 4:31.961 but received silver in the Caribbean Championships.
Alexi Costa placed eighth in the four-part Women’s Omnium but second in the Caribbean Championship.
T&T’s Akil Campbell was half-way through the Men’s Omnium with a sixth-place finish while Whiteman was one of three men who did not complete the 30km Points Race.
Today, Browne and Paul will compete in the Men’s Keirin while Paul, the CAC champion and Quincy Alexander will also face the starter in the Men’s 1 Kilometre Time Trial.
Goal-attack Kalifa McCollin was superb yesterday in helping the T&T netball team coolly cement a spot in the Netball World Cup next year in Liverpool, England after a huge 80-26 victory over St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in Barbados.
Defence has played a huge role in the “Calypso Girls” victories thus far in the Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA) Qualifiers and against SVG at the Sir Garfield Stadium Gymnasium, was no different.
McCollin shot with 100 per cent accuracy, netting all of her 32 attempts in another one-sided win for the local netballers. Her goal-shooter Samantha Wallace was her superb shooting self also, producing 25 goals from 27 attempts as the centre-court unit of captain Rhonda John-Davis, the wing-attack, who was later replaced by Shantel Seemungal, and centre Candice Guerero, did well in feeding their shooters with their crisp passing.
Their efforts were well rewarded as the professional shooters had T&T ahead 27-6 in the first quarter, staying dominant into the second period, to hold a 45-14 lead at the halfway mark, showing their superiority to the SVG team.
On defence, it was the high-flying duo of goal-keeper Shaquanda Greene and goal-defence Kemba Duncan keeping the SVG’s goal-shooter Mary Ann Frederick and goal-attack Shellissa Davis uncomfortable in the opposition’s offensive circle while Onella Jack-Hill did everything that coach Wesley “Pepe” Gomes desired of his wing-defence, intercepting wayward passes from the SVG players.
On the resumption of the second half, coach Gomes replaced Wallace with Joelisa Cooper, who showcased her experience in shooting. The former captain boosted T&T with 18 goals of 20 tries, 11 of which came in the third quarter as she and McCollin combined for 23 to have the 10-ranked team in the World ahead 68-19 entering the final session.
Daystar Swift was also introduced to the match for Greene, continuing the excellent defensive work for the national team, who was joint World champions in 1979.
Another change came in the shooting circle to start the fourth quarter and it was Tahirah Hollingsworth (5/7) taking over the goal-attack position for McCollin, who had completed her role splendidly.
Duncan returned to action on defence, partnering with Greene to limit SVG veteran shooter Skiddy Crick (6/6), who replaced Davis (2/5) as the goal-attack and Frederick, the leading scorer for the losing side with 18 of 22.
T&T stuck with what has worked for them throughout the eight-nation tournament, enforcing its zone defence and went on to win the match by 54 goals to seal its sixth straight win, booking a spot in the World Cup along with Barbados, who defeated Grenada, 58-43 in the following match.
Today, the “Calypso Girls”, the defending champion, will meet the unbeaten Barbados “Gems” for the AFNA title in the final match of the regional competition from 7 pm.
In other results yesterday, Canada defeated Argentina, 66-22 and the USA beat St Maarten 51-36.
Mornings on the Zanzibar archipelago in the Indian Ocean figure with lines of handsome women elegantly carrying firewood and pails of water on their heads, fishing craft with fishermen arching poles, and dhows with their single sails silhouetted against the sun like a brass gong vibrating over the canes in Couva.
During Ottoman rule, hundreds of dhows would sail every year across the Indian Ocean from Arabia, Persia, and India with the monsoon winds blowing in from the north-east, bringing iron, cloth, sugar, spices, and dates.
When the monsoon winds shifted to the south-west in March or April, the traders would leave with their ships packed full of tortoiseshell, copal, cloves, coir, coconuts, rice, ivory, and slaves.
The Maluku archipelago in modern Indonesia in the Banda Sea came to be known as the Spice Islands due to the nutmeg, mace, and cloves that were originally exclusively found there.
What these distant climes share in common with these leaves of brown islands that cling to the blue rim of the Caribbean basin is a history of extractive European economic and political institutions that would condemn them to underdevelopment.
Extractive institutions in Guatemala have enriched the elite for four centuries. Guatemala remains a polarised country with a minority of European-descended elites controlling politics and economics while an indigenous majority remains on the margins.
Repressive violence continues to be the norm—a practice rooted in the colonisation of the region.
The same process of vicious circles was evident in ancient Maya city-states that began around 500 BC, preventing them from becoming an empire. The same is also true for plantation economies.
Extractive institutions create huge inequalities and greater wealth and unchallenged power for those in control.
Extractive institutions then not only pave a yellow brick road for the next regime to be even more extractive despite the loss of El Dorado but they engender continuous conflict.
Inside the iron law of oligarchy, it is challenging to chart a new path as with the Glorious Revolution in England or the Meiji Restoration in Japan.
Inclusive economic institutions foster economic activity, growth in productivity and economic prosperity.
In 1860, a census of the British colony of Barbados unmasked that of the 60,000 inhabitants, 39,000 were African slaves who were the property of the remaining one third. In fact, they were the possessions of 175 sugar planters who owned most of the land and who had well-enforced rights over their slaves.
Of the 40 judges and justices on the island, 29 of them were the largest planters. Barbados did not strive at that time to have inclusive economic institutions. Two-thirds of the population had no access to education or economic opportunities or incentives to nurture their talents.
Christopher Codrington was a planter in Barbados (1668-1710) and a friend of the King. He amassed a great fortune from his sugar plantations. He was a fellow of All Souls, Oxford where he would endow the library at All Souls that carries his name. A library of books built on the backs of slaves without schools. In 1935, Eric Williams failed to receive a fellowship at All Souls.
Just as virtuous circles enable inclusive institutions to persist, vicious circles create influential forces that buttress the persistence of extractive institutions.
Such institutions are not unbreakable and history is never destiny, but extractive institutions exhibit resilience. They create potent negative feedback loops that allow extractive political institutions to forge from limited-liberty extractive economic institutions which in turn create a basis for the persistence of politically extractive institutions.
Under-inclusive economic institutions, wealth is never concentrated among the sparse elite who use their economic prowess to impose their political will disproportionately.
Additionally, there are more limited gains from holding political power and thus weaker inducements for any group or individual to try to take control of the state.
Rich nations are rich because they have developed inclusive institutions over the last three centuries. At first, they are fragile and are inclusive only in a limited sense, to begin with; but the butterfly effect amplifies frail flutters into storms of virtuous circles.
Once these inclusive institutions persist, there is no need for the same confluence of factors to re-emerge for them to survive.
The initial interplay between existing institutions and the opportunities and challenges need not recur.
Inclusive institutions open a path for two engines of prosperity: technology and education.
Development is freedom and is always accompanied by technological improvements that enable people (labour), land, and capital (plant and machinery) to become productive.
The contrast of South and North Korea and the United States and Latin America illustrates a general principle.
Dr Fazal Ali
In an address to a special convention of the PNM on November 27, 1970, by Dr Eric Williams entitled “PNM’s Perspectives in the World of the Seventies” during which he presented “The Chaguaramas Declaration: The People’s Charter Revised”, he outlined a new philosophical direction for the party and the country. One of the more significant excerpts from his Convention Address read as follows:
“The PNM Perspectives reject both liberal capitalism (with its concomitant of penetration and take-over of the economy by multi-national corporations) and the communist organization of the economy and the society. Instead, we follow the pattern that is being increasingly developed by developing countries of state participation in the economy, to the extent of up to 51 per cent in particular enterprises, to ensure that decision-making remains in local hands.” (p 12).
This philosophical position has defined the policy positions of both the PNM and the State for the last 48 years. Momentarily, in 2003, it appeared that the Manning PNM was prepared to commence the dismantling of this model when it undertook the closure of Caroni (1975) Ltd. However, that was short-lived as the momentum to create new state enterprises gained steam during the gas boom that followed.
The Williams model as articulated in 1970 took effect with the creation of the National Petroleum Marketing Corporation (NP) in 1972 and the nationalisation of Shell on Independence Day in 1974 and the creation of Trintoc, and gained further momentum during the oil boom of the 1970s with the creation of the National Gas Company (NGC) in 1975 and continued during the downturn in the 1980s when the Texaco refinery was nationalised.
Petrotrin became the crown jewel in the state enterprise thrust that epitomized the philosophy that drove the Williams model. There was also supposed to be a special role for trade unions as Williams’ 1970 speech on the PNM Perspectives went further to say as follows:
“PNM’s Perspectives place great emphasis on the participation by trade unions in economic activity.” (p 15).
Last Tuesday, virtually three years to the day when JTUM and the PNM signed an MOU just in time for the 2015 general election, all of that changed. The demise of Petrotrin as we know it is indeed a watershed moment in the politics and economics of this country. The Williams model that supported it has now been set aside. The reality is that that model only seemed to work when the State had money to sustain the dominant role for the State.
The trade unions have argued that corruption and mismanagement have caused the decline of Petrotrin. The Government has timed its move on Petrotrin to coincide with its signing of a gas agreement with the Venezuelan Government. The members of the trade union movement in this country are strong supporters of the Maduro administration in Caracas, so the political optics cannot be ignored.
At the same time, the Government is well aware that JTUM is hostile to the UNC so their political gamble is that they would be unlikely bedfellows during this philosophical shift.
With Maduro and Rowley being on chummy terms and Roget and Persad-Bissessar being poles apart, now would be the politically opportune moment to make the move to close Petrotrin because the stars are not aligned here.
Back in May, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said that the economy had turned around and that the rain had gone and he could see clearly now. This will serve to increase the tone of the rhetoric and pushback against the Government by the unions. Was the policy move at Petrotrin part of that “turnaround” or must it be assessed separately?
There is undoubtedly a looming political challenge. In the absence of full disclosure about how the Government got to this policy option, there will continue to be unease.
The Prime Minister is expected to address the nation tonight. The unions are expected to take action next Friday. This is going to turn into a political showdown between the Government and the trade unions.
Once it does, it could turn into a battle royal in which the internal elections of the PNM will provide Dr Rowley with the opportunity to have frequent platforms to articulate his specific case and vision, while the unions will try to influence PNM voters about their case. If Rowley and his slate emerge victoriously, he will feel vindicated.
If the Joint Trade Union Movement of T&T’s call goes ahead, the country will face another long weekend, this time through an illegal general strike this coming Friday.
Except for the fact you will never hear the word “strike” coming from the unions’ leadership. Why? Because the Industrial Court has a history of narrowly interpreting the legislation and ruling in terms of what the action is called—not what the action is in substance.
It is as if, for the Industrial Court, all it takes to turn a cat into a dog is to call it a dog and presto! It may still look like a cat, behave like a cat, and scratch like a cat but, for the Industrial Court, it is a dog because the union never said it was a cat.
This makes no sense and must stop. When a call for action is made that involves the unauthorised and indiscriminate withdrawal of labour (be it for prayers, rest or anything else), that’s a strike. And an illegal one.
It does not mean that strikes shouldn’t be allowed. In any strong democracy, workers are given protection to exercise their right to strike as part of a labour dispute.
There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the right legislation is in place to make it fair and just for all.
First of all, the legislation must be clear about what a strike is: the unilateral withdrawal of labour.
If either side fails to follow the procedure set out in law, preferably including secret balloting and proper notice, that shouldn’t make it a lesser strike. Quite the opposite.
And the punishment for a breach of strike legislation should be equitable.
Our current legislation sets the fine against a union on the losing side to half what an employer would have to pay. This makes no sense. A trade union may well have higher revenues than a company. Besides, this goes directly against a basic concept of natural justice: the punishment is for the act of breaking the law, not for who you are or represent.
And there should be a right for redress when unions act illegally. If a union’s unlawful action financially damages a company, it should be made to cover that loss, just like workers and unions representing them are compensated when they are unlawfully treated by an employer. Redress should always be fair, balanced, equitable, and transparent.
All functioning democracies must also have clauses limiting or banning strike action in key services or areas. This is not to thwart workers’ rights but to ensure that the wider public is not put in harm’s way.
And giving euphemisms to industrial action by these groups shouldn’t be tolerated.
Days of rest, “total policing” or medically improbable bouts of collective sickness are just acts of deceit the law shouldn’t allow to prevail.
Apart from being illegal, they also show a high level of duplicity and dishonesty, often from union leaders who spare no time to climb the moral high horse for everything else.
None of these legal principles are extreme (they are widely applied all over the world) or stop workers from fighting for their rights.
But they stop their organisations from abusing their powers (and getting away with it).
That takes us back to the strike action planned for Friday.
It should be stopped as it is essentially illegal and political. And if it is about Petrotrin, from an industrial relations point of view, that is a matter between Petrotrin’s leadership, its workers, and their recognised union.
Unless teachers and goat farmers have been dabbling in oil production through Petrotrin and we didn’t know, they have nothing to do with that issue.
Friday should be a normal day in the office, classroom or field for all of us.
Naturally, unions and their members, just like any of us, are fully entitled to voice their disagreement with whoever is in power and to exercise their democratic rights.
The best way to do so is the simplest and most powerful of all: the ballot box for parliamentary elections. Illegal general strikes (or whatever they may name it) are definitely not one of them.
An Independence gift to ourselves as an inchoate nation would be to embark on a full appreciation of how steel band, the music and the instruments, trigger impulses in our collective selves across a range of feeling positive and negative, and how we have to learn from those impulses.
Back in the period (1940s and 1950s) of its creative emergence, when the underclass, which discovered this instrument and began exploring the music that could emerge from it, the “social classes” of the day frowned on it, and saw demonic forces in those who were creating, experimenting and engaging in the instrument, and the music they could begin to generate from the rough pans.
Neville Jules once told me that he was often bathed with wastewater from those who lived in the upstairs homes on eastern Duke Street, as he struggled to make something out of the pans brought to him by his colleague Prince Batson—Cross of Lorraine and Trinidad All Stars.
“Play One” for Ellie Mannette, who beat the pan inside, expanded notes its range, and became one of the first waves of tuners/arrangers and steel band leaders, Invaders.
“Play One” too for Rudy Piggott, the historian of the contestations among the bands to protect the instrument and the panmen from imploding against themselves through the “badjohn” culture. Rudy often referred to the “badjohns” as the generals of the steel band who fought to preserve the advances along the way.
“Play One” too for the misguided ruffian police officers and the high and mighty magistrates who hounded and jailed the early panmen who were struggling to create the instrument.
“Play” a positive one for the “white boys”, the “college boys”, Ferreira, Pierre, and the Pouchet brothers who fought against the social prejudice of their social class and put Dixieland and Silver Stars on the road.
Ferreira told me the story of Dixeland in the 1950s, tentatively venturing into the “Behind the Bridge” Carnival, advancing east along Park Street and Tokyo going west.
Fright and panic set in among the Dixieland panmen; but Destination Tokyo from John John shared the road equally with the “white boys”.
That was the 1950s and “we ent learn that lesson yet” from the panmen, that we have to share this place and the culture we have been creating for 500 hundred years.
That is one of the things I mean when I write about steel band and the music reflecting the best of our impulses.
In today’s steel band land, the social lines are crossed between steel band day along the Eastern Main Road in Laventille and on the Avenue in middle-class Woodbrook.
At the moment of 56 years of political Independence we have not yet learned how to infuse into the social, economic, and cultural aspects of our lives, the impulses, characteristics, and lessons of the steel band, and the music it produces to assist with the challenges we face.
I am not referring only to concerts, reinsertion of the steel band into the Carnival and creating space for panmen, arrangers, tuners, flag wavers, pan makers, pan pushers (there is still need for them notwithstanding motorised transport) “toute mounde.”
Those are but a few of the mechanisms to be used to have the pan and the music impact our lives. Utilised in such a manner, the pan, the music, the players, the arrangers bring joy to our lives.
Beyond the practical application of the steel band and its music, it impacts at the metaphysical and spiritual levels which we need to understand, experience and to allow it to impact the ethos of our existence.
I am neither student of metaphysics or spiritualist, but my rudimentary understanding of those two phenomena, coupled with my experience of steel band music in pan yards, on the streets, at the concert halls, along the “Drag” and elsewhere lead me to conclude that there is something ethereal, celestial, in the feeling of the steel band and the music, its ability to transport you to a higher place of understanding and being.
I have been observing how the young players, such as those in the St Margaret’s Youth band, and those in the big bands are “playing themselves” and instruments; how the younger arrangers are interpreting the music of the likes of Voice, Kes, and others of the present age, who are adding to the legacy of Kitchener, Sparrow, Blue Boy, Scrunter, and others of that generation.
“Trinidad is nice, Trinidad is a paradise.”—Brother Valentino,
Anthony Emrold Phillip
The celebration of the 56th anniversary of our Independence and the approaching 42nd anniversary as a Republic have prompted this reflection on who we are as Trinbagonians, and how we distinguish ourselves to the rest of the world in this era of globalised instantaneous communication and social media.
The melodious chorus of Brother Valentino’s calypso provokes images of palm trees waving in soft breezes along the sun-drenched stretches of sand that ring the coasts of our islands whose fun-loving natives rank high on the happiness index.
However, the bard was quick to dispel those images when he lyrically looked in the proverbial mirror to describe what he saw beneath the beauty of the islands’ skin.
Sadly, his words are even truer today. Trinidad is more paradox than paradise.
We are very good at identifying our societal problems. Yet, while we are good problem-finders, somehow sustained solutions seem to elude us, either because of poor implementation or deliberate rejection.
The Vision 2020 agenda is a case in point. This was a comprehensive plan to forge the development of a unique and noble national identity that would characterise and define us in the rest of the world.
However, this well-intentioned plan fell victim to a politically induced sudden death disorder, and sadly, its noble intent has all but passed out from the national stream of consciousness.
So here we are, a nation adrift in a sea of nondescript identity, with its moral compass visibly broken, leaving some to wonder whether we have all been “zombied” into a cult of moral ambivalence.
There is an obvious increasing tolerance of undesirable behaviours in our country.
We have been unwittingly refining society’s moral slag, as if in a process of reversed refining where what is discarded is the valuable material.
We allow these behaviours to flourish to the point where with each successive generation they are becoming more entrenched in the psyche of our people.
This invasive moral pollution has desensitised us to our social impurities and our youth have come to believe “this is us” or worse, this is who they should be. We have already lost a generation to this trend, some may even say two, and we are on course for losing another.
How long can we continue to ignore the stench of moral decay? Is this really us? Are we seeking to match our happiness rating with equal ratings on disrespect and indiscipline?
Are we aspiring to be in the top ten on the social media verbal abuse and insensitivity index?
Do we want to be infamously known as the crime capital of the Caribbean and the corruption headquarters of the region? Hopefully not!
However, this is what we Trinis will be known for unless we stem the tide of negative behaviours that is flowing through the land. We need to turn on the heat in society’s furnace.
We must begin the task of separating and discarding the moral slag to yield the essence of a more commendatory national identity. To do otherwise would be to prompt another chorus line: Trinidad, it sucks. Trinidad is a paradox.
Trinbagonians, we must get serious and accept the responsibility which falls to every citizen.
From the captain to the cook, all on board the “SS T & T” must be willing participants in the much-needed agenda to pull our beloved country back from becoming a paradox and make it a paradise again, for our children’s sake. Happy anniversaries.
Dr Paula Mark is an independent consultant and teacher development specialist.
Former Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) leader Errol McLeod says the impending refinery shut down spells “disaster” for the country and his former trade union.
He is calling on the Government and its advisers to rethink the shut down especially in light of the recent ninth crude oil discovery in Guyana by Exxon Mobil.
“How would it serve the interest of the country to shut down the refinery at this stage?” McLeod asked in a telephone interview yesterday.
McLeod said that based on the Guyana oil find, by 2020/2021 the country will be producing high-quality crude oil.
“What is needed now is to modernize the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery so it has the capability to refine crude produced in Guyana. Now though, instead of moving forward or even staying stagnant, we are moving backward,” he said.
McLeod served as OWTU president general for 21 years before retiring in 2008 when current president general Ancel Roget took over the office. McLeod also served as Minister of Labour under the former
People’s Partnership government. Serving in both offices gave McLeod a unique view of the relationship between the union and the State.
“I will not compliment nor take away from what the current president general has done,” McLeod said.
“I would have done things differently.”
McLeod said both the politicians and the trade union seemed to have no vision where Petrotrin and the refinery is concerned.
“I would not have used the same tactics that he (Roget) is using,” McLeod said.
When asked for specifics, McLeod said that Roget allowed the trade unionists to speak out on an OWTU platform in a manner which “disrespected the institution” of the union.
“I saw on television that a farmer of goats spoke out against the Government in the most obscene, backward manner,” McLeod said. He was referring to the president of the Sheep and Goat Farmers Association, Shiraz Khan who was more vocal in his condemnation of the Government at Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) press conference last week.
“The OWTU should never be allowed to become so degenerate,” McLeod said.
Last Tuesday, the OWTU met with Petrotrin executives to discuss plans for the State company. The union was presented with three options but the company signaled that its intention was to shut down the refinery and send home some 1,700 workers. Since then the union has contended that it is the State’s intention to send home twice that amount from Petrotrin. This is the largest group of workers to be dismissed from any company.
Silence from Baptiste-Primus
The Sunday Guardian attempted to contact Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus on this issue but she did not respond to calls or texts. (RS)
In response to TTUTA president Lynsley Doodhai’s call to teachers to boycott classes as a show of solidarity for the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), Minister of Education Anthony Garcia says the matter was discussed at length at a Cabinet meeting last Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference held yesterday at the Education Towers on St Vincent Street, Garcia said Cabinet had directed Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to research the laws and all other necessary bits of legislation relevant to public service.
They include the Education Act; Civil Service Act; Industrial Relations Act; Teaching Service Regulations Commission and the Public Service Commission Regulations that have been adopted full scale by the Teaching Service Commission.
“We have also been asked again to liaise with the Chief Personnel Officer, with respect to terms and conditions with service,” said Garcia.
He said in-house, the ministry had its own legal department from which it is currently receiving advice and that advice will be used together with the advice from the Attorney General to guide any course of action going forward.
“One of the things that came out of the discussion at the level of Cabinet is the fact that when TTUTA said publicly that they’re asking teachers to stay home as a mark of support to the OWTU, that can be construed as calling a ‘sympathy’ strike, which is another area that the Attorney General is looking at,” Garcia said.
He said he spoke with Al-Rawi yesterday morning and was assured that by tomorrow he would have in his hands the response to the request made by Cabinet.
‘PUT CHILDREN FIRST’
Weighing in on the matter, president of the National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA) Raffiena Ali-Boodoosingh said children were already losing too much teaching time for several reasons and it works negatively for them.
“Yes, we know that teachers would want to be in solidarity with other workers but at the same time, we have to look at what signals we are sending to our children,” Ali-Boodoosingh said.
She said on one hand we are saying protesting is not always the right course of action and that useful dialogue and communication are better at coming to a consensus. On the other hand, however, children are witnessing leaders in the public eye doing differently.
“It is the first week of school, children are anxious to go to school. And come Friday, you are telling students don’t come to school, teachers are not coming to school.”
She said the theme of NPTA this year was titled Putting Children First: Save The Nation.
President general of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget did not know that the Government planned to shut down Petrotrin. After successive meetings with the Petrotrin executive and then with the Prime Minister, the union claimed it was kept in the dark about the Government’s plan to close the refinery until the meeting on Tuesday.
In a statement to the media, the OWTU yesterday sought to “bring some clarity” to Energy Minister Franklin Khan’s statement that Roget had previous knowledge about the closure of the plant, but stopped short of calling Khan a liar.
Chief Education & Research Officer & Executive Trustee Ozzi Warwick said he was present at the meeting and at no time did Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley or anyone in his delegation say that the refinery would be shut down.
“Our notes will reflect that in the meeting, the Prime Minister lamented on the state of the refinery and that it was a major problem for Petrotrin and that Petrotrin should come out the refining business,” Warwick said.
Warwick said that Roget pressed Rowley to state exactly what that meant but the Prime Minister insisted that the union wait until the meeting with the board.
“However, up until that time, there was no communication between the board and the union and therefore there was no meeting scheduled,” Warwick said.
Warwick claimed Rowley even further stated that the options presented by the board had the sanction of the Government, but did not state what exactly were those options. He said it was those statements by the Prime Minister that led the OWTU to believe that the refinery was about to be sold.
“Immediately following the meeting when addressing the workers and the national community through the media, Comrade Roget stated what transpired and stated that based on the Prime Minister’s statement we were of the view that their plan will include the selling of the refinery. We stand by this statement!!” Warwick said.
He said since that meeting two weeks ago and the subsequent meeting with the company officials, Roget’s statements were widely covered and publicised.
“It was again reiterated that we believe that even after they shut down the refinery their plan is to sell its assets. His views have been widely reported and can be fact-checked. We also wish to highlight the fact that the statement made by the Minister of Trade, The Hon Paula Gopee-Scoon after the meeting with the Prime Minister never mentioned anything about shutting down the refinery,” Warwick said.
“It is also interesting to note that even after Roget made his public statements at end of the meeting with the Prime Minister and at the prayer session on the 26 August, no one from the government side refuted his statements. It is unacceptable that now that the Government is faced with a massive backlash and is clearly incapable of managing the situation that Minister Khan would seek to play wordsmith.
“The statements by the Minister of Energy is simply an attempt to shift focus away from the more fundamental questions. The fact remains that this Government’s decision, if allowed to go through, will throw away this country’s energy sovereignty in our 56th year of Independence, it will lead to the selling out of our national patrimony, throw thousands of families into turmoil, decimate communities in the South, and will ultimately crash our economy. The Government’s decision is tantamount to treason!!! We therefore again demand that the Government reverse this unpatriotic and catastrophic decision.”
See Page A23
Funds will be made available tomorrow to caterers with the National School Dietary Services Limited (NSDSL).
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Lenor Baptiste-Simmons confirmed this yesterday at a press conference held by the Ministry of Education.
Baptiste-Simmons said the ministry made funds available on Friday and that cheques would be ready for caterers by tomorrow.
Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan said he had been in touch with the NSDSL CEO and arrangements have been made.
“In fact, I just got a message from her before the press conference where she asked me to flag the schools that would not be reopened so that adjustments could be made to the service. The funding for payments have been identified and we’re going to work that through, but in terms of the service, it will resume next week,” Seecharan assured.
In recent times, several caterers contracted under the NSDSL, to provide breakfast and lunch meals to students from the pre to secondary school levels across T&T, had stated that they might not have been able to continue operations in the term ahead.
In an interview with the Sunday Guardian, some even indicated up to last week that they had not yet received menu options from the NSDSL.
We were told some of the caterers received part payments at the end of June, but according to information received, the 75 caterers attached to the NSDSL were owed just under $100 million. A reliable source, over $15 million had already been paid out to caterers.
According to the NSDSL, caterers should be paid within a month of the invoice date for services rendered. However, some of them have complained about having to wait for more than a year for payment.
NSDSL officials estimated that $220 million is required to effectively continue operations per year.
The contractual agreement between Government and caterers stipulates that the providers supply a predetermined number of meals to schools within a specific zone.
A total of 83,000 lunches and 56,000 breakfast meals were provided during the 2017/2018 academic year. It has not yet been determined if this number will vary for the academic year 2018/2019.
Online research indicated that in 2014 the annual budget was just under $259 million while the 2015 school feeding budget was said to be slightly less at $250 million.
Officials confirmed that a breakfast meal cost $8 each, while lunches were $9.50 per meal.
Four primary schools will remain closed tomorrow, at the start of the new school term, mainly as a result of post-earthquake damage. They have been deemed unfit by the Ministry of Education through its structural engineers.
The schools are Curepe Anglican, Forest Reserve Anglican School, Santa Maria RC, and Dayanand Memorial Vedic School.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia made the announcement at a press conference at the ministry’s headquarters yesterday, where three pressing issues were addressed—infrastructure and readiness pertaining to schools, stipend negotiation for principals of private secondary schools, and TTUTA’s call for a solidarity boycott on Friday.
The decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday. Garcia assured everything was being done to get these schools reopened in a timely manner.
Garcia said following the 6.9 earthquake on August 21, 66 schools were flagged for attention as they sustained various degrees of damage.
He said the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Works and Transport were able to begin structural assessments of these school within two days of the earthquake to ascertain the damage and to get a comprehensive report on areas of repairs.
Other schools listed are St Benedict’s College, Holy Faith Convent Penal, Holy Name Convent, Diego Martin North Secondary School, and Diego Martin Girls’ RC.
Garcia said St Paul’s Anglican School will also remain closed after officials of the City of San Fernando Corporation stated it was unfit for students to return to the building tomorrow.
Other schools awaiting assessments include Nipal Presbyterian, Pt Cumana Government Primary School, and St Phillip’s Government Primary. Garcia said after some cracks were discovered in the latter school, the ministry advised the school be closed until further assessment.
La Romaine Secondary School will also remain closed, but it is due to electrical work being completed.
“I want to be honest and make the point that delay is not because of the earthquake. That school must have its entire electricity fittings looked at so that there would be no recurrence of a fire that happened some time in late May,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the ministry was also observing schools particularly in the Central area as there were possibilities they could have structural damage to the sewer systems.
Asked what would be the interim accommodation for students, Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan said they have already identified some options to move forward. He said the relocation of students involves the process of all stakeholders who must give the necessary approval.
“For a number of these cases which warrant relocation of students to other venues, that has kicked in already. I suppose by the middle of the week some definite positions would be made,” said Seecharan.
The Ministry of Education is prepared to increase its offer by $400 for students placed in private secondary schools, taking the figure to $4,000 per student.
The former offer made by the ministry was $2,400, moving the current $1,200 to $3,600. However, the Association of Principals of Private Secondary Schools turned down the offer on August 23.
In a previous interview association spokesman Anthony Mc Colin had told Guardian Media, the new proposed $3,600 per student per term was “unacceptable”, because the schools are in debt and the religious organisations and private individuals who have been assisting financially just “cannot afford to carry the burden any more”.
Yesterday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said Cabinet on Thursday considered the report of the committee that was appointed to negotiate with the principals of the private secondary schools and decided to “up” the offer.
“As you would be aware, the committee met with representatives of the principals of the private secondary schools and the sum of $3,600 was offered. We understand that the offer was not accepted. In fact, it was brought to our understanding that they wrote to the Minister of Finance rejecting the offer,” said Garcia.
He said Cabinet debated the matter and came to the decision that they would up the offer by $400, which would make it $4,000 per child per term, and this would be for a period of four years.
“We are hoping the matter could come to an end with this decision,” said Garcia. See Page A11
Are public education, health, and other systems ready to handle increased demand which will follow the sacking of Petrotrin workers?
“Unemployed people have no choice but to use public systems more,” said employee Chankar Teelucksingh.
Cries from Petrotrin workers inside the company rang out last week and tears from families flowed like water when the closure news hit—among them, Teelucksingh’s family.
“When I told my wife and two children that I didn’t know if I will have a job, everybody just broke down—the hardest thing I ever had to do,” said Teelucksingh, who has been with Petrotrin for 33 years since age 18. He has been a permanent worker for 28 years and casual worker for five.
While he’s attached to Trinmar, Teelucksingh said the way the word came out, it appears all areas will be affected in some way by the refinery closure. “We’re in the dark, doubt and fear on the true extent of changes especially where Trinmar and Santa Flora fields are concerned.”
Teelucksingh is worried about meeting his daughter’s university fees and his son’s school needs. “I have a mortgage, a car loan, and my mother to support. People say re-train or ‘re-tool’ to get work. At my age, I can’t get GATE help to try to get an education to change my field since GATE now has age restrictions on applicants. How is the education system going to help/adjust to meet people’s needs to retrain?
“Can the public health system, especially in South, handle the needs of all these people—2,700 workers plus their families and others affected—it now has to handle all at once?”
Teelucksingh was also concerned whether the State’s struggling National Insurance system will be able to cope without the contributions from axed workers and those who will have to be paid NIS benefits. “I saw the effect when Trintoc was closed in Point Fortin—a ghost town. What will become of the South now?”
Workers must plan
Former PNM energy minister and minister in the ministry of finance Conrad Enill—now a business consultant—said “If Government could have rescinded the closure decision, it wouldn’t have made it in the first place. At this point, focus by those affected must be on action: that they get the best package, training/re-tooling for transition, calculating financial obligations, interacting with credit unions, restructuring loans, budgeting more effectively for the next six to eight months.
“They would be skilled people but may get work in other areas or even in the same. What may not be available to them is the same revenue stream they got so adjustments and planning for what’s ahead are absolutely necessary.”
Enill said Petrotrin had a significant bond payment coming up and if that couldn’t be met, T&T would be put at risk regarding its rating. “Nobody will lend you money, cost of financing would increase, and faith in T&T would be shaken.”
“When former late prime minister Patrick Manning called the election in 2010, some 12,000 people—employed as advisers and other posts—lost jobs the same way Petrotrin’s 1,700 will. “This is a risk taken in employment.
Hold your hand—the OWTU (Oilfield Workers Trade Union) has an alternative plan.
That’s the 11th-hour call to Government from the OWTU regarding Government’s decision to close Petrotrin’s refinery.
OWTU, which has been holding meetings with workers and other agencies over last Friday and yesterday, made its call on the eve of Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s address to the nation tonight on the Petrotrin issue.
Petrotrin’s Board last week announced closure plans. Some 2,700 workers are at issue in the matter though Petrotrin indicated 1,000 can reapply to be rehired. However, 1,700 will be “axed”. Energy Minister Franklin Khan estimates workers’ termination benefits would cost “significantly more” than $1 billion. Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet said Petrotrin will foot the bill and will have to find the money.
Finance Ministry officials explained to the Guardian that the refinery costs the State over $2b annually and if that cost was removed, Petrotrin will be able to raise financing—by borrowing—to meet workers’ settlement. They said borrowing would be the only way to handle it.
OWTU’s’ Chief Education/Research officer Ozzie Warwick—replying to the Guardian’s questions yesterday—said the union received no information on which workers will form part of the 1,700 “to go”, who may get the early retirement/full pension plan being proposed by Government or further details.
Despite Government reaching as far as estimating the size of termination benefits, Warwick said “We’re not giving up, we still hold hope this decision can be changed. We’ve told workers this refinery closure isn’t the only choice Government has. There are other options. We have a strategic document to show what other options exist and T&T won’t have to lose energy sovereignty to external, foreign sources to supply fuel needs as Government plans—that will only increase fuel prices and the cost of living overall.”Warwick said OWTU’s plan was based on some of its recommendations to the Selwyn Lashley team which
reviewed Petrotrin’s operation in 2017. After that team’s report, however, Petrotrin’s Board was mandated in December 2017 to present to Cabinet a restructuring plan. Warwick maintained OWTU wasn’t told of refinery-closure plans.
Warwick said, “Our plan focused in detail on increased productivity, accountability, and achieving production targets, with employees taking full responsibility for performance. We examined Petrotrin as a whole. It couldn’t be viable and profitable in the current structure as you don’t run an integrated company with one management.
“Our focus was major restructuring into three business units of a new governance model—Refining/Marketing, with its own management; Land/other business units with Trinmar; and separation of the hospital into an entity to be run by a medical board.”
Plans also address quick-win projects yielding an additional 2,000 barrels of oil daily and multiple other initiatives in land and offshore areas. Increasing refinery efficiencies and reviewing whom T&T imports crude from is among aspects.
Warwick noted the Lashley team agreed with the union’s recommendations. “It’s strange it didn’t recommend closing the refinery. But our plan will ensure Petrotrin’s survivability. It’ll be fine-tuned this week.”
Potentially affected—welders to shipping workers
Warwick said “If this closure is forced by the fact that Government has to pay US loans for Petrotrin from next year, how can they find billions to pay off workers, yet can’t get the same money to pay the loans?
“The public also needs to know what will be done with the billions of dollars worth of refinery assets if it closes. It can’t sit there as these assets depreciate quickly if unused. Will assets be sold? Is the fact that some business groups agree with the closure, indication the private sector has a role to play later?”
OWTU figures indicate the refinery has 23 plants with 2,200 permanent workers plus 800 casual/temporary workers.
The figures include 300 operators, 150 maintenance workers, plus shop area craftsmen, welders, electrical and mechanical workers, pump operators, electrical instrument operators, oil stock workers, marine/shipping workers.
Warwick admitting OWTU will be affected by the closure, said it was a form of “union busting”.
OWTU is holding a meeting with workers on Monday evening.
Today marks the 101st anniversary of the T&T Guardian. The Grand Old Lady of St Vincent Street has an illustrious past with much to celebrate and a bright future to look forward to in the digital age.
Tomorrow Guardian Media will be relaunching its website and digital Guardian app.
Its founders were also hopeful and confident in a brave new world and future launching a fledgling newspaper amidst the turmoil of the First World War. The time had come for citizens to read about themselves in a local newspaper when independence was not yet even a nascent dream.
The T&T Guardian had its share of triumphs, trials, and adversities bringing the news to citizens on the many major and historic moments in the country.
The T&T Guardian covered the nation’s independence in 1962, it rose phoenix-like from the ashes of the devastating fire that destroyed its St Vincent Street home in 1980, thanks to the determined efforts of its loyal staff and the support of its faithful readers.
When poet and playwright Derek Walcott passed away on March 17, 2017, I had to source the newspaper’s archives on the Nobel Laureate from the National Archives of T&T and Nalis (The National Library and Information System Authority).
T&T Guardian reporters, staff, and editors produced stories from ground zero of the July 27, 1990 coup, slept under metal desks at the newspaper and ate corned beef, while bullets ricocheted off the building.
The face of the paper began to change also with the times. From the expats of the 50 and 60s such as English editors Jack Barker and George Jenkins, the paper later transitioned to local editors such as Lenn
Chong Sing and manager Aldwyn Chow. Back then, journalists wore suits, banged out their stories on manual typewriters which have been replaced by computers, and photographers used film cameras instead of digital cameras. Associated Press wirephotos from the 30s have been replaced with digital transmission and the bulky cassette recorders have given way to digital recorders that reporters now carry.
The T&T Guardian has always been at the forefront of technology to give its readers the latest news ‘the fastest with the mostest.’
T&T Guardian’s Production Supervisor Rawle Sobers who has 35 years experience in the press room said the paper had kept pace with the state-of-the-art print technology and employs a Computer-to-plate (CTP) printing system which has led to reduced pre-press times and improved print quality over the mechanic Goss printing press and Linotype machine of the past.
As the T&T Guardian enters the digital age and new social media platforms; technology and trends will change, but the newspaper’s strengths will always be its loyal family of employees and readers for the next century to come.
GUARDIAN GETS TO THE POINT WITH WEBSITE—CLEAN, SIMPLE, EASY-TO-READ DESIGN
Guardian Media Limited’s managing director Nicholas Sabga said tomorrow Guardian Media will be relaunching the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Website and Digital Guardian App.
“These relaunches are the perfect celebration of our 101st anniversary, which comes a day earlier. For 101 years we’ve brought you the newspaper you’ve come to know and love, but this year we’ve embarked on a mission to do even better,” he said.
“Our new website boasts of a clean, simple, easy-to-read design that complements our recently redesigned paper. Our new web pages are fully responsive for seamless, immersive viewing on your desktop, mobile or tablet.”
He said images and headlines were easy on the eyes and at a glance, the reader can keep up with all the latest Business, Life, Sport, and Opinion news.
They can also access weather updates, exchange rates or listen to any of the group’s seven radio stations on the new website.
Sabga said the redesigned Guardian App will be available for download on both Android and iOS devices tomorrow.
He said if readers already had the app installed, they simply needed to update in their App Store or Google Play Store.
Sabga said features such as clipping, downloading for offline reading, printing, bookmarking, and sharing were now easier than ever.
He said readers can share their favourite articles or pages with friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, LinkedIn, Google+, and even Pinterest.
Sabga said for desktop users, the all-new reader carries the built-in ability to read articles aloud to the user.
He said features like these and more have been perfected for all ages and were sought through the desire to provide our readers with the best user experience possible.
“Getting to the point had never looked better,” Sabga said. “We’ve redesigned with you in mind. Head over to www.guardian.co.tt tomorrow to see what’s new, and download the Trinidad Guardian in the App Store and Google play store to take us with you wherever you go.”
The trial run of the Galleons Passage between Trinidad and Tobago was a success according to the National Infrastructure and Development Company (Nidco).
The inter-island ferry took four and a half hours to make the trip and spent some time at the docks in Scarborough before returning to Trinidad.
Social media was rife with comments and pictures of the ferry unable to connect with the ramp in Tobago and by 2 pm yesterday, the Ministry of Works and Transport tweeted that the crew was “currently in the process of exploring docking options and analysing all required logistics needed for a seamless operation when the vessel is commissioned into service”.
An hour later, Nidco sent a statement praising the run and saying that its objective was to determine the “duration of the journey” to Tobago.
“That is speeds, the overall quality of on-board experience, and to check some passenger safety features,” the release said.
“We also sought to determine the more suitable berthing option, since the vessel is equipped with both bow and stern ramps.”
The Nidco said that based on the trial run, the Galleons Passage will use its stern ramp in both islands.
The company also described all other checks as “highly successful”.
In a subsequent interview, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan reiterated that yesterday’s trial run was not about whether the ferry could berth in Tobago.
“We always knew that the ramp on the bow was going to be a challenge and they were just testing that today (yesterday),” Sinanan said. He said all of the previous ferries berthed by the stern and not the bow and the Galleons Passage was no different.
He said United National Congress (UNC) activist Devant Maharaj was busy on social media spreading rumours about the boat.
“Today was not about docking, it was about speed and safety,” he said. Kamla: It’s a piece of junk
But, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday described the Galleon’s Passage as a piece of junk.
Speaking to reporters at her constituency office yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said the boat was of no use to the people of T&T.
Asked to comment on a report that the exit ramp on the boat was some 20 feet off the ground, so vehicles could not exit the ferry, Persad-Bissessar said, “People were anxious and excited to get a connection with the sea bridge but the boat cannot dock. Once again this shows the competence and mismanagement of the Rowley government and we are once again left without a sea bridge.
“We bought a boat that is junk and scrap iron. How could they buy a new boat and have it parked up at Staubles Bay? Now that it actually attempting to float it cannot dock.”
—with reporting by
Two Caribbean companies have been selected as finalist in the SIAL Innovation Awards 2018 for their product innovation.
They are Caribbean Cure Ltd of T&T and Naledo Belize Ltd. SIAL is regarded as the world’s largest food innovation exhibition and hosts the SIAL Innovation Awards each year to recognise those who help to shape what we eat both today and tomorrow.
Taking place in Paris from October 21-25, 2018, the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) in collaboration with the European Union are supporting twelve food and beverage producers to participate at SIAL under the Caribbean Kitchen banner. Of the 12 companies, Caribbean Cure and Naledo’s participation has already started draw attention given their shortlisting for a SIAL Innovation Award for their dynamic and creative product offerings. Keeping with tradition Caribbean Cure Ltd produces a line of loose leaf natural healing teas that utilise indigenous plants found within the Caribbean. Their handcrafted teas which utilise premium organic ingredients are crafted through the preservation of nutrients found within the roots, herbs and flowers of plants that have been used for generations within the Caribbean to heal and treat ailments.
“When we began handcrafting our blends, we had one simple mission: to share our passion and love for the age-old traditions and healing qualities of Caribbean herbs. We visited farmers, herbalists and tea lovers from across the region to find out what makes the perfect cup of natural tea. We were determined to create much more than tea with health benefits.
We are excited to share the Caribbean tea experience at SIAL Paris and will continue to share our passion with the world on this global platform,” commented Sophia Stone, founder and managing director at Caribbean Cure Ltd.
Naledo Belize Ltd is one of the world’s first manufacturers of fresh turmeric paste. Developed by CEO Umeeda Switlo, Naledo use a recipe based on her own traditional Indian cooking to create Truly Tumeric.
Tumeric is a healthy root often found in supermarkets and health stores in a powered or capsule form to be taken as supplements however, Naledo Belize Ltd have transformed it to create a deliciously healthy wildcrafted whole root turmeric paste making it a niche product within the global market. “We are very excited to be a finalist in the SIAL 2018 product innovation award for Truly Turmeric. Naledo is the first company in the world to manufacture a fresh turmeric paste and our CEO Umeeda Switlo came up with this recipe based on her traditional Indian cooking.
This nomination means that our company has been recognized for the innovative product we produce and our social enterprise model. We hope that it opens trade doors to the EU and beyond” declared Nareena Switlo, COO at Naledo.
Naledo is a social enterprise based in Toledo, Belize and focuses on youth entrepreneurship, sustainable production, regenerative agriculture, and community empowerment. With every jar sold customers know that they are directly impacting our network of small-scale growers in Belize.
“We are thrilled that two of the companies that will be attending as part of the Caribbean Kitchen pavilion have been recognised for a SIAL Innovation Award. This doesn’t only bode well for Caribbean Cure and Naledo but also for the region as a whole. We have some fantastic food innovations across Cariforum and we need to gain greater visibility for them” expressed Chris McNair, manager,
competitiveness and export promotion, Caribbean Export.
The participation of Cariforum com panies at international trade shows is a key intervention of Caribbean Export to support the region’s exporters to increase their market penetration namely in Europe.
“It’s important for Caribbean companies to be present at international events. We have to leverage the support from the European Union via the 11th EDF to ensure the innovation, great products coming out of the region are seen internationally. At the end of the day there’s no point in having great products if no one knows about them,” McNair said.
Tuesday’s announcement of the impending closure of Petrotrin’s Pointea- Pierre refinery and the laying off of 1,700 workers may have come as deja vu for those old enough to remember the last time the country was faced with a similar situation.
It was in 1985, at the start of a deep and protracted recession, that the then George Chambers administration decided to buy the Texaco refinery in an effort to save jobs. The decision was hailed by the Trade Union Movement as a commitment to the control of the commanding heights of the economy and at ensuring the country’s patrimony was nationalised.
Thirty three years on and it appears that while the country was in charge of its patrimony and the commanding heights of the economy, it failed to manage the company in such a way thatmade it sustainable.
Politics, mismanagement, corruption and a non-compromising trade union have combined to see what looks like the death knell of the refining business in T&T.
The failure of the refinery was indeed predicted by the late economist Dr Trevor Farrell and successive administration failed to tackle the issue head on.
Various governments never brought the country into its confidence on the challenges facing the company and on how, by taking hard but timely decisions, the refinery may have been saved.
In the following New York Times article, it shows that from its inception, the purchase of the refinery was a gamble and makes us ask if— as T&T—we should have risen to the challenge of transforming the local refining business and whether we all failed in our duty to keep those responsible for the refinery accountable for their lack of performance.
NEW YORK TIMES ARCHIVES | 1985
Trinidad to keep refinery going
With world oil prices down and many refineries closing, the Government of T&T has reluctantly bought the sprawling Texaco Inc. refinery on the east coast of Trinidad.
The Government agreed to buy the money- losing refinery, officials say, mainly to save more than 3,000 jobs and avoid expensive imports of oil products.
‘’We didn’t want to take over Texaco,’’ said Ronald Jay Williams, Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of State Enterprises in a recent interview in Trinidad.
‘’They told us they were leaving. We had no choice.’’
As Prime Minister George M Chambers and Texaco executives were signing the purchase agreement at the end of March, the Exxon Corporation was formally closing its refinery in nearby Aruba while the Royal Dutch/Shell Group and the Government of Curacao were continuing negotiations concerning the future of the Shell refinery in Curacao. Shell had said earlier that because of continuing losses it would have to close the refinery unless the Government bought two-thirds of the operation.
Better sites elsewhere
Refineries have been shutting down not only because of the oversupply of oil in international markets but also because many companies say they find it more cost-effective to refine crude either where it is produced or where it is sold rather than at intermediate points such as the Caribbean islands.
The Caribbean refineries were built mainly to produce fuel oil for utility companies and factories in the northeastern United States. These customers have reduced their needs through energy conservation and in some cases have shifted to cleaner-burning and less-expensive natural gas. The refineries, some of them built more than 50 years ago, also find it difficult to compete with more efficient modern plants. The refineries in Trinidad and Curacao have been operating far below capacity, as did the plant in Aruba. The Bahamas Oil Refining Company in Freeport reportedly is operating at about a third of its capacity, and the Amerada Hess Corporation says it is reducing its refinery operations at St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands by two-thirds.
Lost jobs’ social impact
Government officials in Curacao say they are no more eager to buy a refinery than the Government in Trinidad was but are also worried about both the social and political impact of thousands of jobs being lost.
Officials in Aruba said they never seriously considered buying the Exxon refinery because of the huge cost that would be involved.
Unlike most other islands in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago have their own oil wells, although they do not produce enough petroleum to efficiently run the Texaco refinery and the refinery that the Government has been operating. Still, even limited production capability makes the operation of a refinery more feasible for Trinidad than for Aruba and Curacao, oil experts say.
Trinidad agreed to pay Texaco $189.2 million—$98 million in cash and the rest in petroleum products over 10 months. Texaco kept its most productive offshore oil fields and two other undeveloped offshore tracts. Prime Minister Chambers said negotiations would continue for these properties, but there was no immediate comment from Texaco.
Improvements are urged
Many people in the Government believe that by stepping up the amount of crude oil the refinery processes and by making some technical improvements, Trinidad can stem the losses that the plant has been sustaining and break even. Some suggest that making a profit may even be possible, but others predict that the Government will suffer huge losses.
‘’It would have been cheaper to put all the workers on the dole,’’ said Trevor Farrell, a Cornell graduate who is a specialist in oil and energy economics and teaches at the University of the West Indies campus in Trinidad.
Oil experts disagree on how much crude is needed for the refinery to break even but agree that a substantial amount will have to be imported.
(Joseph B Treaster, New York Times)
Petrotrin’s refinery is to be closed putting some 1,700 workers on the breadline. Given the large debt load that the company is carrying, the hope is that it can use its depleting petroleum upstream asset to transform the company into one that can in the future service its refinanced debt.
The refinery, as Mariano Browne tells us, was operating at a conversion ratio of 65% as compared with that of the competition out there, at some 90%. This comparison is based on the Nelson Complexity Index, which when applied to Petrotrin shows that the products it was extracting from its oil throughput were of low value given its low complexity index; its plant was unsophisticated.
Eventually its board and management realised the incapacity of its aged plant and attempted upgrades, some of which were spectacular failures.
One may ask why did these projects fail since they were not inventions of Petrotrin or the first installations in the world of similar upgrades and they were being done by supposedly qualified foreign contractors.
Moreso, the gas to liquids plant utilised an untested process, adding to the risk of this upgrade.
Understanding what happened demands that we look at the bigger picture, at the economic model that Lloyd Best called the plantation economy.
This small open plantation economy used the rents- the foreign exchange left in the country by foreign investors invited to exploit our petroleum resource- to purchase the many imports that we could not produce for ourselves.
Hence the energy sector, the foreign investment activity, made efficient use of their factors of production (capital, technology, innovation and people) and was able to perform, drive the whole economy with only four per cent of our labour force.
On-shore the main activity of the private sector was import-markup-sell. This could not provide full employment for the remaining 96 per cent of the labour force. Hence we have a large public service, particularly in Tobago, make work programmes, endemic over staffing at state enterprises and public utilities.
This is made more difficult given the impact of the Dutch Disease on wages and salaries on-shore. In other words, employment on-shore was always a problem, a government problem that it attempted to solve via the rents from the energy sector.
Indeed some 50 per cent of government’s spending goes to transfers and subsidies!
The Petrotrin we know today is the result of acquisitions over the years. Trintoc was formed when we acquired the assets of Shell in 1974; in 1985 Trintoc subsumed the assets of Texaco when they left our shores; in 1969 Tesoro was formed from the assets of BP; Tesoro became Trintopec in 1985 and Petrotrin was formed in 1993 when Trintoc and Trintopec were merged; the Petrotrin of today was formed in 2,000 when the outstanding shares in Trinmar were acquired.
Petrotrin then is an amalgam of assets originally held by the oil majors of the world and these acquisitions like Caroni were about preserving jobs and also our ascent to the commanding heights of the economy when the majors left as the market conditions changed and the oil resource was depleting.
These acquisitions were not based on us having built world-class ability and capability locally in the technologies, the emerging innovations and the marketing required, as happened in Brazil’s deep water venture.
Though these companies in the energy sector were considered off-shore, the acquisition brought them under government control and into the philosophy of the on-shore, where the overriding concern was the provision of jobs and hence the over staffing at exorbitant, for the on-shore, salaries and wages, ensured by a very powerful union that would not hesitate to shut the company down to get its way.
The blame now is being put on the successive managers and boards of Petrotrin for the financial/commercial collapse. But one can question whether the major objectives of the unions, the management, the boards and the governments were economic efficiency, given the low refinery complexity, the poor state of the company’s infrastructure and the neglect of the exploitation of the remaining upstream petroleum assets; assets that today are touted as the salvation of the company.
If we were to apply Prof Michael Porter’s stages of economic growth to Petrotrin it is clear that it may have entered the exploitation of basic economic factors (petroleum), then investment through its acquisitions.
However, it remained stuck there with no highly skilled knowledge acquisition, no local R&D support institutions, hence no ability to improve economic efficiency via plant development, no innovation. When at last it was recognised that the refinery’s conversion ratio, its Nelson Complexity Index was low—its products were low value and below international standards, eventually losing money on the refinery production—the move was made to upgrade the refinery. But this lack of skills, of knowledge, contributed to the fiasco that has now hung a large debt onto the company for failed upgrades with little capacity to repay.
The closure of the refinery was inevitable. However, the problem still remains on-shore: How do we provide good jobs on-shore and also earn foreign exchange via exports to fund the imports we cannot produce ourselves?
Diversification via a national innovation system is the only option; one that all of our governments pay lip service to as we continue to live off the depleting rents from the energy sector.
Still, this is not a short-term process and the pain of adjustment, of sacrifice as we achieve this transformation will test our resolve.
MARY K KING