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“The anniversary of our independence provides us with another opportunity to reflect on the meaning of citizenship and the value of our national identity.
The world has brought us news of nations gripped by civil war, anarchy and terror. In many countries people do not enjoy the freedoms we may be tempted to take for granted.
That our democracy has remained intact these 56 years is no small feat.
This deserves celebration given our status as one of the most multi-cultural societies in the western world. We have largely used our diversity as a bridge to make connections with each other. We’ve enjoyed a deep harmony that is intrinsic to our identity as nationals of this beloved country.
We must guard our unity zealously. This defence is especially needed in turbulent times.
It is in times of difficulty that the urge to retreat to narrow interests and partisan lines can become the strongest.
But we must resist this and seek instead an agreeable guidepost.
But how do we find common ground in an often polarising environment?
Permit me to suggest the advice from our first Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams in his inaugural speech on Independence Day 1962: “Whatever the challenge that faces you, from whatever quarter, place always first that national interest and the national cause.”
On an individual level, this asks us to always consider our choices and actions in light of the impact it will have on our families, communities and the entire nation.
For those of us who serve you as leaders, this requires us to work together to ensure that your interests are protected and that the collective good is sought over individual gain.
I have no doubt that we will do what is needed to create sustainable growth and national development. It is our responsibility as loyal citizens to ensure that our children can be proud of the decisions that we must make today.
On behalf of my family and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, I wish you all a safe and happy Independence Day 2018. May God continue to bless you and may God bless our nation.”
Political analyst Prof John La Guerre has viewed the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association’s (TTUTA) call for teachers to stay away from classes on September 7 as holding the nation’s children to ransom.
La Guerre weighed in on the issue a day after TTUTA president Lynsley Doodhai called on teachers to boycott classes as a show of solidarity for the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), which was dealt a hard blow with the shutdown of the Petrotrin refinery.
Yesterday, La Guerre praised the Government for taking a courageous and frontal decision to shutdown Petrotrin’s refinery, saying the country was in a national crisis.
“One expects in a national crisis people would put forward more constructive suggestions as to how this crisis should be dealt with. I think the first recourse should not be a shutdown by unions with TTUTA taking the lead.”
He said the better option was dialogue between the unions, Government and affected workers.
“To me, TTUTA is holding the nation’s children and by extension the country to ransom. I think trade unions, in general, believe they have a moral right to strike or to threaten strike once their material interests are affected. The time has come where people have to think not only of their immediate but their longer-term interests.”
La Guerre said citizens should also take a positive approach when faced with a crisis.
“It is imperative on us to behave responsibly. I hope that sobriety will prevail and people will come to their senses and recognise the economic implications for all of us. If the economy collapses we all will suffer.This is what is really meant by patriotism.
When unions talk about patriotism this is also what is involved.”
He said the trade union movement should be coming up with ideas and suggestions to get Petrotrin out of its mess. La Guerre said to call for a TTUTA boycott will obviously create fear in the minds of parents.
“I think TTUTA should be fighting battles for Trinidad and Tobago and not stand in solidarity with OWTU after an announcement was made to send Petrotrin workers home. This company has been draining the national purse and burdening citizens with its staggering debt.”
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath meanwhile said it was difficult to say if teachers would heed TTUTA’s call. “Teachers would have to take Friday as a sick leave day and that could be counted against them. I am not sure how many of them have that day to spare and would want to take it this early in the term.”
But Ragoonath did not see TTUTA’s call as holding the country to ransom.
“From that perspective, I see it as part of a wider call. Be that as it may, there always remain the concern as to whether or not it is their right to join in that movement or the workers’ right to engage in such action.”
Energy Minister Franklin Khan says plans are being worked on to “soften the effects” of the closure of the refinery at state-owned Petrotrin and is assuring the workers being exited will be given “very attractive packages.”
Khan is also insisting Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union president general Ancel Roget was told in “no uncertain terms” by the Prime Minister that the refinery would be closed when the two met last week.
Speaking on CNC3’s Morning Brew yesterday, Khan said, “I was in the meeting and the answer to that is a resounding yes. He was told in no uncertain terms by the Prime Minister that the refinery will be shutting down.”
Khan said the Government could not tell Roget what to do when asked if Roget was told not to inform his membership of the planned shutdown.
Khan, who has responsibility for Petrotrin, said the Government “is not kicking the can down the road”.
“We know the consequences of some of the decisions have some far-reaching consequences and we are working on a plan to soften the effects and to make sure the population knows that we are not an uncaring Government,” Khan said.
Khan said they were aware 2,000 workers would be directly affected but he assured workers who are between 50 and 55 will get early retirement “with full pension and that is a gift” and the other workers will get “very attractive packages.”
Khan did not want to get into the details of specific figures, saying those were still being worked out but assured “nobody will be leaving Petrotrin hand to mouth, they will have serious benefits, especially those who are on early retirement and those who are not will have a significant cash outlay so that they can search for other investments and look for other professions and jobs.”
He said the country had struggled for decades to keep the refinery alive but he said “the data showed there was absolutely no hope for this refinery to survive profitably as presently constructed and configured. It was causing serious haemorrhage into the cash flow.”
The money saved from the “haemorrhaging”, Khan said, will be better spent on other parts of the economy to assist the very people who will be displaced.
He admitted that the closure of the refinery will negatively impact Marabella, Claxton Bay, Vistabella and parts of San Fernando, but said Government was committed to assisting those communities affected and things are being put in place.
Khan said the refinery will be transformed into a terminal facility, a new business model, where Petrotrin will be importing finished product in bulk and redistributing to the Caribbean and to the local market. He said bunkering will be proposed “because there is a lot of storage capacity and port facilities in Point-a-Pierre, it is just the processing plant that will be shut down.”
Sourcing the petroleum products for the local and Caribbean markets would not be an issue, Khan said, since they are internationally traded items.
Khan believes there will still be a profitable business at Point-a-Pierre but not at the scale the refinery was in terms of employment and generating spin-off economic activity.
He said the cash coming out of the restructured company will have two functions “a component to repay debt, because we are loaded in debt and the rest will be reinvested in Exploration and Production. When you invest you win more oil and when you win oil you make more money.”
Khan said he was of the view that had money which was invested in the refinery over the years been directed at Trinmar, “we would have been laughing to the bank today, but those decisions were taken and what has happened has happened and these are the consequences of these actions we face today.”
He said the new Exploration and Production “will look like a fit for purpose, nimble and independent energy company” which will bring “new life” to communities on the South West Peninsula, Fyzabad, Point Fortin, Guapo, Palo Seco and Santa Flora.
T&T is now 56 years old as an independent nation but there is nothing to celebrate today, as the country’s leadership is plunging the lives of 45,000 citizens into chaos with the decision to close the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery.
This is the view of Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget, who yesterday vowed that Petrotrin will be saved but the ruling People’s National Movement Government will “be no more” as the union plans a major fight back.
At a media conference at the OWTU’s Paramount Building headquarters in San Fernando, Roget said the Petrotrin board was not telling the truth, as their plan is to shut down the entire company and hire 800 employees to operate its revamped Exploration and Production (E&P) operation.
On Tuesday, Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet announced the discontinuation of the company’s Refining and Marketing operation, which signalled the closure of the 101-year-old refinery. Espinet said this meant 1,700 permanent and casual workers would be retrenched.
Yesterday, Roget said on Tuesday the board presented three slides to the union, which was the same thing they presented to the Cabinet, which led to the approval to shut down the refinery. The slides contained three scenarios: Continue business as usual, retrench 1,500 workers or transform the financial performance of the company with a workforce reduction of 2,400.
He said those three slides were presented to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, as opposed to the union’s comprehensive plan for the company’s turnaround that was previously submitted to the board. He said it was on the basis of that plan the union signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Petrotrin in April to establish a working committee to oversee and implement the restructuring of the company. But he said the union believed it was hoodwinked by the company as no meetings of the committee was ever held.
Breaking down the figures yesterday, Roget said it would not, in fact, be 1,700 workers being retrenched but all 3500 permanent employees.
“They are moving swiftly ahead to implement the scenario wherein the upstream operation, to exit fully, 1,700 workers and in the downstream, which is the refinery, another 1,700 workers. While they tell you something else, their proposal, in summary, is to send home all of the workers in Petrotrin and rehire some 800 workers. Then shut down the refinery, open some ‘terminalling’ operation and hire 200,” Roget said.
With the number of vacancies currently existing, which are filled by casual and temporary employment on a rotational basis, he said an additional 2,000 people will be affected. An estimated 3,500 employees who work on a rotation for contractors of Petrotrin will also feel the pinch, he said.
With an estimated 9,000 employees expected to be affected, Roget said workers’ families must be added to the mix, resulting in a figure of 45,000. He also stressed that the economy in the southern part of the island will be impacted, including the maxi taxi drivers, doubles vendors, shops and stores. Sports and cultural development, which Petrotrin once sponsored, will also take a hit.
A billion-dollar Petrotrin payout is ahead to refinery workers who will lose jobs—including an early retirement package for those over 55 who will receive full pensions.
“We haven’t worked it out fully yet but the (termination benefits package) figure will be huge - significantly more than a billion dollars,” Energy Minister Franklin Khan told reporters yesterday.
Khan gave the estimated cost of workers’ termination benefits following yesterday’s launch of state-owned TTT Limited television station, formerly CNMG. (See page A7)
Earlier this week, Petrotrin’s board confirmed plans to close the company’s refinery in October in a move which will cause the loss of 1,700 permanent jobs. But OWTU president general Ancel Roget has called on Government to rescind the decision and call an election or “face chaos.” (See page A5)
But Khan said yesterday, “Mr Roget represents a trade union that seeks to represent workers as it sees fit. T&T’s based on law and order and any action they take, once legal, is acceptable. But if it’s illegal, the state would have to act.”
“So no - we’re not rescinding the decision,” Khan confirmed.
On Roget’s insistence that he wasn’t told of the closure at a recent meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Khan said, “Yes, he was told. I was at the meeting. The meeting’s minutes will show the Prime Minister indicated in no uncertain terms to Mr Roget that Petrotrin will be getting out of the refining business. As to why (Roget) didn’t communicate that (to OWTU) at that point in time, that’s his call - not mine.”
On termination benefits for workers, Khan said,”All the costs are being worked out as we speak. A lot of milling through of numbers has to be done. We’ll be offering an early retirement plan for people over 55, pay them off and they’ll have their full pension. Then we’ll have an exit package—I don’t want to call it severance—for younger workers. That formula is still being worked out.
“But the (termination benefit) figure will be huge - significantly more than a billion dollars - since the base salary of Petrotrin is big. Any calculation will be based on base salary.”
While refinery workers don’t command the highest salaries and theirs is on par with the company’s Exploration/Production sector’s wages, the refinery has the largest overtime costs, he added. But overtime wouldn’t come into play in termination benefits.
Khan also acknowledged the closure’s effect on the “human side”.
“We’ve said we were left with no other choice—to save putting the economy at risk ... However, no matter what spin you put on it, there are 3,000-2,500 families who will be affected. I’m very much conscious of this and so is the Prime Minister,” Khan said.
“I know most of those workers! I supervised some of them in my career. I feel great empathy for them. That’s why we’re working out proper packages for them. We also hope the spin-off effects for places like Marabella will be something like what happened in Couva and Chaguanas in the post-Caroni era.”
He said major challenges will be in Marabella, Gasparillo and other catchment areas for the refinery.
Khan said he wasn’t worried about Santa Flora, La Brea and Point Fortin, which will have more Exploration and production activities.
“Point will go even further as there’ll be more activity in Trinmar and Atlantic (LNG) is still there,” he said.
Khan says the “exit” agreement for the Petrotrin terminations will be a human resource expense.
“If you have to meet that cost you may probably have to borrow it or something like that. But it’s the only way out of this, you just cannot send people home without anything,” Khan said.
Whether taxpayers will bear some part of this cost, Khan only said, “The termination benefit figure will be part of the cost structure of this reorganisation, but it’s a small figure compared to the annual haemorrhaging (of Petrotrin).”
He said calculation to close the refinery was based on a cost benefit analysis in the context of the operational costs of the refinery, in terms of the haemorrhaging of money because of the importation of crude oil.
However, Khan assured the details of the payout to workers will be worked out “long before October.”
On when the entire process will be completed, he said he hoped “a lot of things will be completed before year-end.”
FUEL STORAGE WILL BE KEY TO COMPANY’S FUTURE
Petrotrin will become a terminalling facility, Energy Minister Franklin Khan reiterated yesterday.
“As we speak, it’ll be converted into a terminalling facility that will use up all its tankage (tanks),” Khan said.
Instead of making its own fuel, Petrotrin will in future be importing fuel as a terminalling facility and selling it at internationally competitive prices to NP, he said. The latter then sells fuel at a subsidised price.
Also, the terminalling facility will accomodate imported finished product in bulk towards shipping to the Caricom market, he said.
“So we can service the Caricom market. It’s just that we wouldn’t be producing the fuel, we’ll be importing the fuel for onward distribution, as a shipping centre,” he said, adding Government is also communicating the Petrotrin development to Caricom partners.
On other aspects of the terminalling plan, he said, “There would be bunkering facilities, as there’s tremendous storage capacity at the refinery. That operation will be much scaled down than if you were running a full refinery.”
Khan said they had not yet sourced from where the imported fuel would emanate. He said Venezuela has a fuel shortage but noted sourcing fuel internationally isn’t a big problem.
Khan said any defective/leaky tanks would be decommissioned.
“The amount of storage you need when you refine 150,000 barrels of oil isn’t the same as when you’re importing the equivalent of 25,000 to 40,000 barrels of oil,” he dsaid.
All that won’t be used presently in the company are the plants - the Desulphurisation plant, Catalytic (Cat) Cracker plant. In due course, programmes will be revealed, Khan added.
He conceded certain projects had affected in the refinery closure - like the Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel plant - which was a “bitter pill to swallow” since it was 90 plus per cent completed but also had major structural issues.
Khan denied Government took “long” to respond to the public on the matter. He noted historical public opinion that political interference had “killed” Petrotrin. Khan added the company’s board was empowered to work autonomously.
“They presented their plan to Cabinet, it was approved and they rolled it out. We don’t have to do ball-by-ball commentary,” he said.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who was at yesterday’s function, left while Khan spoke to reporters. Rowley will speak on the Petrotrin situation on Sunday.
He also said the fuel subsidy is still on. In the last Budget, he said all subsidy was removed on fuel but the Budget was pegged on an oil price of US$52 and for this year it averaged over US$60 - resulting in a subsidy.
“Our calculation is the subsidy’s estimated by the end of the fiscal year at about $900 million,” Khan said.
“There’s also a subsidy that Petrotrin absorbs on LPG. That figure is over 500 million so there’s still a heavy subsidy from the state on fuel and on LPG—we haven’t decided exactly how that will be handled.”
On Tuesday 28th, Petrotrin’s chairman likened the company’s ailment to cancer. Patients suffering from a terminal illness (cancer or otherwise) are well advised to plan for their eventual demise. His statements provided no comfort or assurance that transitional and legacy arrangements have been adequately addressed.
It is common knowledge that Petrotrin has undertaken several unsuccessful projects over the past few years, thereby burdening the company’s operations and cash flow. A considerable amount of time, expertise and expense have been spent in defining, identifying, and ruminating on these problems. It was clear that action was required. One expected that any action would be guided by a well-articulated plan addressing the myriad of issues arising therefrom. Neither the press release nor press conference gave that confidence.
First, there is no easy way to break an egg; dealing with the OWTU was always going to be difficult. But there was an MOU which called for consultation. Chairman Espinet explains this away saying “…We were not going to go to them with a problem. We were going to go to them with a solution…” He also noted that action was required as Petrotrin is in a difficult situation and has a US$850 million ($5.7 billion TT) bullet payment coming due in August 2019.
This leads to a second concern. Surely the Petrotrin’s Board (and advisers) would be aware that the legal documentation for multimillion-dollar loans are detailed and seek to cover any eventuality including incidents of default and business cessation risk. As the country ought to have learned through the bitter CLF experience, default clauses are instantly triggered. Yesterday’s announcement of the refinery’s closure is such an eventuality and was reported by Bloomberg in real time sending a signal to lender/ creditors.
The announcement would have had the immediate effect not merely of triggering the loan due in 2019 (US$850 million) but also the loan due in 2020 (US$ 50 million). If Petrotrin could not pay US$850 million due in 2019, how it is going to pay US$1.6 billion today? International creditors/ suppliers will not have the forbearance Government did with CLF in delaying action. Has this been factored into the equation? Or has GORTT given assurances? If GORTT has given such assurances, it makes nonsense of the argument that $24 billion would be needed to keep Petrotrin open. What are the closure costs of severance pay and decommissioning for example?
What if local creditors or unpaid suppliers petition the court for winding up action on the ground of insolvency? If the company is insolvent (technically the Finance Minister has said this every time he says taxes have not been paid) the directors are exposed.
Third, how do we reconcile the statement that Petrotrin suffered losses for the last five years but reported profits last quarter? Was this an anomaly or evidence of turnaround capacity? No explanation has been forthcoming.
Other contingenciesto be addressed
Fourth, Petrotrin has been close to an agreement with a reputed international contractor to remedy the structural engineering difficulties of the ultra-low sulphur diesel plant. Such discussions could not have been lightly undertaken and associated expenditure proposed unless business continuation was on the cards. So, what changed to lead to this precipitate announcement?
Fifth, the press release attributes the following statement to the chairman. “With the termination of the refining operations and the redesign of Exploration and Production, Petrotrin will now be able to independently finance all of its debt and become a sustainable business.” Really? Petrotrin has always been in exploration and production; how will a simple re-design make it profitable enough to finance all its debt and become a sustainable business? The statement begs belief. Production has been declining; there have been no new reserves found due to underinvestment and inadequate cash flow to fund new development. So how will a redesign make any difference? Where will the new resource to fund investment come from?
My sixth concern arose from the statement that the refinery would (could?) not be sold. This suggested that something would be and if so what?
Seventh, the transitional arrangements were glossed over or barely acknowledged. Inventory of diesel, gasoline, aviation, and other fuels are Petrotrin’s inventory and supplied ex-bond to NP et al. The bond needs upgrading and modern telemetry. How is this to be handled? Niquan’s GTL plant is supported by several sweetheart arrangements on Petrotrin’s site. Has it been given a discount and a monopoly too? What of the pricing arrangements for imported fuel and how will the tax arrangements at the pump change?
Eight, who or what is responsible for decommissioning the plant, pipelines and the dilapidated tank farm and the associated costs. And the environmental risks posed by deteriorating plant and pipelines? Who is responsible for these legacy and environmental issues?
The list is not exhaustive and there are other contingencies that ought to have been addressed. What of the economic and social ramifications? Leadership and management are critical if we are to avoid repeating the mistakes and repercussions of the Galicia fiasco. As Naipaul said, “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”
On Wednesday September 5, the world will observe the International Day of Charity. The UN states: “Charity, like the notions of volunteerism and philanthropy, provides real social bonding and contributes to the creation of inclusive and more resilient societies. Charity can alleviate the worst effects of humanitarian crises, supplement public services in healthcare, education, housing, and child protection. It assists the advancement of culture, science, sports, and the protection of cultural and natural heritage. It also promotes the rights of the marginalized and underprivileged and spreads the message of humanity in conflict situations.”
In many ways we in T&T are a charitable people. We thank God for the hundreds of NGOs, CBOs, FBOs that are engaged in charitable work. Without their invaluable contribution, the plight of many of our citizens and those we support abroad would be even more dire. While we reflect on the importance of the virtue of charity, let’s remember the words of St Augustine: “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.” Pope Pius XI’s words are also pertinent: “Charity will never be true charity unless it takes justice into account … Let no one attempt with small gifts of charity to exempt himself from the great duties imposed by justice.”
Pope Francis constantly reminds us of our duties to engage both in spiritual and corporal works of mercy as well as works of social action (the promotion of justice). These are integral elements of the Christian way of life. He rightly said: “None of us can think we are exempt from concerns for the poor and for social justice…Jesus tells us what the ‘protocol’ is, on which we will be judged. It is the one we read in chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel.”=
Charity involves more than feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. We must also strive to address the root causes of injustice/social problems by being social justice advocates.
Charity alone will not build just societies; it will not transform society. You know the saying: “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you will feed him for life.” Creating a just society involves, inter alia, promoting authentic human development. Are we promoting the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes that our people need to live as productive citizens in the 21st Century?
Mother Teresa was a model of charity, while Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a true advocate of social action—addressing unjust laws, policies, practices and political action. Mother Teresa rightly said: “What you can do, I can’t do, and what I can do, you can’t do, but together we can do something beautiful for God.” We need both kinds of advocates.
When we give money to the person begging on the streets, we are seeking to meet his/her immediate, short-term needs. We need to start asking the question: “Why are the poor poor?” They should not have to depend on our largesse.
We all have human rights and the economy should work for the benefit of all. The goods of the earth are there for all of us to share in but distributive justice remains a forlorn dream. We should consider the virtue of charity within the concepts of equity and equality. “No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world!” (Pope Francis).
It is time to combat individuality, selfishness and indifference, and open our eyes to what it means to be people of faith. For Christians, to be Christ-like we need to act as He did. His mandate is clearly outlined in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” Let’s show that we are true witnesses to Christ by the way we live and the example that we give. And let us anchor our social justice ministry in prayer.
On International Day of Charity, let us renew our resolve to do as Gandhi said and “BE the change” we “wish to see in the world”. Let us find new ways of standing in solidarity with those in need in our communities, for example: the homeless, indigent, elderly, lonely, sick, shut-ins. There are so many ways in which we can promote charity and justice.
Overall market activity resulted from trading in 12 securities of which two advanced, five declined and five traded firm.
Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 62,323 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $1,316,924.22.
T&T NGL Ltd was the volume leader with 29,973 shares changing hands for a value of $895,355.67, followed by FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd with a volume of 18,006 shares being traded for $153,477.60.
JMMB Group Ltd contributed 6,720 shares with a value of $11,441.20, while Calypso Macro Index Fund added 3,000 shares valued at $47,400.
FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.03 to end the day at $8.52. Conversely, First Citizens Bank Ltd registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.90 to close at $34.01.
On the mutual fund market 3,125 shares changed hands for a value of $49,898.75.
Calypso Macro Index Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 3,000 shares valued at $47,400. Calypso Macro Index Fund remained at $15.80.
Clico Investment Fund declined by $0.01 to end at $19.99.
Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC—Development Fund remained at $0.67.
Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC—Value Fund remained at $1.70. Praetorian Property Mutual Fund remained at $3.05. The second tier market did not witness any activity. Mora Ven Holdings Ltd remained at $14.49.
• The Composite Index declined by 2.44 points (0.20%) to close at 1,241.21.
• The All T&T Index declined by 5.63 points (0.33%) to close at 1,708.29.
• The Cross Listed Index advanced by 0.11 points (0.11%) to close at 104.15.
The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should not have any major impact on T&T and the Caribbean said Dr Anthony Gonsalves, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies (UWI).
“It is essentially a free trade agreement between those three countries, United States, Canada and Mexico. They are just negotiating certain terms and conditions in certain sections of the agreement in the areas that the Americans think they have problems like the auto industry and the question of labour conditions. The Americans think that they are losing jobs because the labour conditions are not strict enough in Mexico,” he told Guardian Media by phone yesterday.
The White House is finalising details of a new free trade deal with Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement — with or without Canada.
Scrapping NAFTA was one of US President Donald Trump’s central promises during his presidential campaign. He blamed the 24-year-old trade pact for decimating the US manufacturing industry and the loss of thousands of factory jobs.
Gonsalves said the only area where T&T might be remotely affected is in the area of steel.
NuIron Ltd manufactures direct reduced metal in T&T for its parent company NuCor Inc headquartered in North Carolina, United States.
“Some of the American steel giants have been behind Trump on raising steel tariffs. NuCor still produces steel in T&T and is based in the United States. T&T has duty-free access to the US market I believe under the Caribbean Basin
Initiative (CBI) trade agreement with the United States. So far, Trump has not said anything about these non-reciprocal arrangements. I see that NuCor has put in a bid for a steel mill here. They were the ones who pushed Trump to raise the tariffs as they felt that their plants were in trouble in the United States. I am not sure that would be beneficial to T&T. The rise in the price in steel could make us a little more competitive in the steel market.”
He said that T&T has to be “vigilant” and observe what is taking place internationally especially with regard to American trade deals.
“Trump has not paid any attention to Latin America and the Caribbean. He has ignored us and maybe that is a good thing. The less said about us is probably the better because he is unpredictable. The CBI is not a legal agreement and Trump could wake up tomorrow and cancel the whole agreement or change the tariff on something. It is different with NAFTA as he has to go to Congress to change that,” he said.
Despite facing one of the most difficult economic times the retail sector, Massy Stores remains confident in the future of the country’s economy, says Derek Winford, CEO, Massy Stores.
“This is one of the most difficult times in retail, as a matter of fact in the whole country, I have been in retail for over 25 years and I am telling you that the times that we are seeing today is the toughest times that we have seen. Even going back to the financial crisis in the United States, we are in really tough financial times,” he said.
Winford spoke yesterday at the opening of its 19th store in T&T in Mandalay, Tumpuna Road, Arima, near the Larry Gomes Stadium.
He called the newest store, which occupies 19,000 square feet, a “huge investment” but declined to give the figure of how much it cost to build and to outfit the store.
“We have confidence in the future of T&T. We have confidence in Arima. We have confidence in the economy. Here we are making such a huge investment when things are as bad as they could ever be.”
He also dismissed as “fake news” reports that Massy Stores had the highest prices in the supermarket industry.
“We have a Dollar Stretcher and on that, you will find the lowest prices possible. We have deals that you will not see any part of the world. It is called ‘extreme deals.’ When people tell you the competition is cheaper, it is fake news.
Massy Stores is about the first or second cheapest supermarket in T&T. That is the truth. Anything that anybody tells you about high prices, because of the state of the economy, because of the perception that we have, it is fake news.”
He added that they are bringing the best in service to this latest branch.
“It is the first time, that we have been able to bring all this, our latest formats to Arima. We have delivered in Trincity, we have delivered it in Marabella, we have delivered it in Gulf, we have delivered it in St Ann’s, we have delivered it in Glencoe but it is the first time we are bringing it to Arima. It is the third store in Arima. A beautiful ambience, wide aisles, cleanliness, quality, excellent customer service. When we put on a scale this is two kilogrammes or 5.5 pounds, that is exactly what the scale said. Our value deals with honesty and integrity.”
He also said that Massy Stores will continue its Corporate Social Responsibility projects like recycling.
“The plastic bag initiative that we have, a lot of our customers got upset with us for charging 50 cents for a bag. 50 cents is a penalty, I do not want anybody to pay 50 cents for a bag. So use the reusable bag and save the environment,” he said.
For the second consecutive year, the ANSA McAL Group will ‘Illuminate’ the skies at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, and San Fernando Hill simultaneously for Independence Day, beginning at 8 pm tomorrow.
The fireworks display, powered by Fire One Fireworks, is an Independence Day gift to the people of T&T from the ANSA McAL Group of Companies.
As the nation celebrates its 56th year of Independence, ANSA McAL through its flagship company Carib Brewery Ltd and supported by the Port–of-Spain City Corporation, Music TT, Live Music District, National Lotteries Control Board and Guardian Media will add another gift to the nation in the form of Illumination the Independence Concert which begins from 3 pm to 6pm at the Grand Stand southern foyer at the Queen’s Park Savannah prior to the fireworks display.
As part of the evening’s entertainment, ANSA’s McAL own musically talented employee Marlene Felix and Ninja will be in the line-up of entertainers Joining them will be Lujoe and the Gifted and Xavier Strings. Chutney Soca Monarchs for 2018 Neval Chetlal and Nishard M, as well as the Kings of J’Ouvert, RAPSO, 3 Canal are also featured acts. Bringing the concert to a close will be Belmont based—The Caribbean Steelpan Connextion Ensemble.
Admission to the concert is free and there will be giveaways. No coolers will be allowed inside the venue as Carib will offer Independence specials to the public.
ANSA McAL has promised to continue to amplify its commitment and patriotism through its corporate social responsibility.
The T&T Police Service (TTPS) has announced traffic restrictions for tomorrow’s Independence Day parade and fireworks display. The restrictions are due to commence at 6 am and end at 1 am the following day. The parade of different units under the Ministry of National Security will begin at the Queen’s Park Savannah at 8 am. President Paula-Mae Weekes will take the salute before the units begin to march towards the Police Training Academy in St James.
The parade will move south along Frederick Street, west along Park Street unto Tragarete Road, west along Tragarete Road and north along Long Circular Road until the academy’s outer field.
Parking restricted between 6 am and 10 am along Queen’s Park West (between Queen’s Park East and Cipriani Boulevard), Chancery Lane (between Keate Street and Queen’s Park West), Dere Street, Albion Street, Gordon Street and Frederick Street (between Queen’s Park West and Park Street). Parking restricted along Park Street (between Frederick Street and St Vincent Street) from 6 am to 11 am, and along Tragarete Road and Western Main Road (between Roxy Roundabout and Long Circular Road) between 6 am and midday.
There will also be no parking on Long Circular Road (between Western Main Road and Patna Street) from 6 am and 3 pm.
People wishing to attend the parade can park in the Queen’s Park Savannah between 6 am and 11 am by using entrances and exits at Casual’s Corner and at the St Ann’s Roundabout.
In terms of the fireworks display, there will be no parking from midday on Friday to 1 am on Saturday on Queen’s Park West (from Chancery Lane to St Clair Avenue), Maraval Road (from St Clair Avenue to Saddle Road), Circular Road (from Saddle Road to St Ann’s Road), Queen’s Park East (from St Ann’s Road to Queen’s Park West) and Charlotte Street (from Queen’s Park West to New Street). People who contravene the restrictions will be wrecked and impounded at Abattoir Road in Sea Lots opposite the old Central Market.
Western Division police have arrested eight men in relation to the seizure of four illegal firearms, this week.
Police arrested five of the suspects on Monday after they stopped their Nissan B15 along the Western Main Road in Westmoorings.
Police found a loaded Glock 17 pistol with 11 rounds of 9 mm ammunition. The gun was also outfitted with a selector which allows the user to fire automatic bursts from the semi-automatic pistol.
The suspects, ages 18 to 21, all from Factory Road in Diego Martin were arrested.
Almost 24 hours later, officers of the Western Division Task Force (WDTF) led by Sgt Ulric Arneaud were on patrol in Richplain, Diego Martin, when they observed three armed men in a bushy area. The men attempted to run away but were arrested.
The officers recovered an FX-9 machine gun, a 12-gauge pump action shotgun, a Glock pistol and 14 rounds of assorted ammunition.
The pistol was also outfitted with a selector.
The eight suspects remained detained up to late yesterday and are expected to be taken to court today.
T&T is on course to record its lowest road fatality figure in almost three decades.
While T&T experienced its lowest toll in 22 years, last year, with 107 road deaths, the historic milestone is now set broken again as the T&T Police Service (TTPS) has recorded a further 11 per cent reduction over the first eight months of the year.
Speaking after the weekly police press briefing at the Police Administration Building in Port-of-Spain yesterday, ASP Harnarine Rampath said that there were 64 road fatalities for the year thus far as compared to 72 during the corresponding period, last year.
If the trend continues, it may mean that T&T’s road fatality toll may remain in double digits.
The toll for 2016 and last year was 135 and 116 respectively.
He stated that of the road fatalities, 28 of the victims were drivers, 11 passengers, 19 pedestrians, two motorcyclists and four pedal bike riders.
Asked about the possible reason for the drastic reduction, Rampath suggested that the frequent use of speed cameras and breathalysers were possible causes.
Despite the promising statistics, Rampath said that his unit would continue with their regular exercises and public education programmes.
“Any life lost is one too many,” Rampath said as he called on drivers and pedestrians to exercise personal responsibility when using the country’s roads.
He also suggested that a demerit points system, which tracks and penalises drivers with multiple driving infractions, and fixed speed cameras at busy roads and highways would also lead to future reductions.
A total of $295 million worth of illegal narcotics have been seized through the efforts of Crime Stoppers T&T (CSTT) in the past 19 years, according to the organisation.
This and other statistics were revealed by Garland Samuel, the Executive Manager of Crime Stoppers, during a town meeting hosted in conjunction with the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce at the Chaguanas Borough Auditorium at Cumberbatch Street on Tuesday night.
He said Crime Stoppers is an NGO that is served by a volunteer board of directors that represents members of the business community, the THA and similar entities.
“Crime Stoppers is not the police.. it is a partnership between the community, the media and law enforcement,” he said.
He said in the last 19 years the organisation has been in operation, it has also received 588,066 calls, 19,674 tips that led to 1,607 arrests, and led to the recovery of stolen items to the value of $20, 554, 9924.
Samuel said Crime Stoppers is the best option for reporting crimes since it works on the level anonymity.
He said this may be advantageous to business people who may want to use the tip line as a medium for employees to report criminal activities happening at their business places. He said Crime Stoppers could also be used to report counterfeit goods.
Darrin Carmichael, executive member of Crime Stoppers and CEO of Community Defense Services, gave advice in setting up neighbourhood watch groups. He said safe neighbourhoods are not built but made safe by the people who live there.
He said gated communities may not be that effective in keeping out criminals since criminals can easily penetrate those communities by jumping over a wall or posing as a relative or fast-food delivery personnel.
Carmichael said the level of serious crimes went up from 11,393 reported cases in 2016 to 13,113 in 2017. He said geography no longer governs any community since criminals have the tendency to migrate from one area to the next depending on their needs.
“Some of the cold spots are becoming lukewarm, when Enterprise heats up, they move out.”
Carmichael said while many people may think they are safe in their homes, crime can occur at any place outside the home.
“You stop to buy vegetables, you stop to buy a newspaper, you can be a target any day. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a hot-spot or cold-spot you can become a victim.”
Carmichael said watch groups can work effectively to curb crime by making reports to the law enforcement authorities and are not vigilante groups.
He said watch groups should not confront or question suspects. They do not detain or arrest criminals or put themselves in harm’s way, he said. Carmichael said the reality is that police cannot patrol all areas all the time and may not be
He said members of the community have human intelligence about the people in their neighbourhood and can notice subtle changes in community activity.
Members of the public aired their concerns during the question and answer session.
Rajkumar Krishna Persad said he was upset by the poor turnout at the meeting. Persad suggested that similar meetings be held in collaboration with religious institutions where a more captive audience can be sought.
Alex Roopnarine said he was not happy with Crime Stoppers since it is a post-crime programme that does not prevent crime. Roopnarine said law-abiding citizens should not be asked to curtail their lifestyles since they were paying taxes on everything, while government ministers walk around with bodyguards. Roopnarine said the time has come for law-abiding citizens to get firearms.Greetings also came from Vishnu Charran, the president of the Chaguanas Chamber of
Commerce and Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan
Members of a work crew from the T&T Electricity Commission (T&TEC), who stumbled upon an apparent car robbery trap in Chaguaramas, are defending their decision to highlight the issue on social media.
In an interview with television station CNC3 yesterday, supervisor of the crew, Kevin Julien said that they were disappointed over being accused of fabricating the incident, which was initially disregarded by the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) as misleading information.
The CDA has since changed its position and initiated an investigation into the incident. Julien claimed that the discovery was made while he and his colleagues were clearing trees from overhead lines along the Western Main Road near to Crews Inn Marina.
“While our truck was parked there we saw something shining on the road,” Julien said. The two objects
Devices used by bandits to lure unexpected drivers in the Chaguaramas area which is engaging the attention of the CDA. PICTURE MICHAEL RAMSINGHnoticed by the crew consisted of a small metal plate with a sharp protruding object, which was nailed unto the roadway.
He said the objects were placed a short distance away from each other, opposite a bushy area.
“Crime is at its highest. You have to take every precaution and you can not take anything for granted,” Julien said.
He said he and his co-workers believe that the objects were placed there to puncture the tyres of commuters, who would be robbed when they stopped.
“It could happen to any of us and the average person would not have two spare tyres in their vehicle,” he said.
Julien said he and his colleagues did not expect that their warning to the public would be ill-received and would lead to trolling of the company’s social media accounts.
“We thought the video would speak for itself. We did not expect all of this backlash,” he said.
Julien admitted that they did not report the incident to police but claimed that they tried unsuccessfully to report it to the CDA.
In a release issued shortly after the video clips were aired, the CDA claimed that the claim was investigated and no evidence was found to support it. However, in a release issued yesterday, the CDA sought to assure members of the public that the incident was still being investigated.
The CDA said that its estate police have stepped up patrols in the area as they continue to search for other similar devices.
n Members of the public, who may have information on the objects are asked to contact the CDA’s Estate Police at 634-1010 or 707-2965 or visit their office at Williams Bay or the Carenage Police Station.
The Port-of-Spain City Corporation council yesterday moved and passed a motion to have its city engineer removed and replaced for non-performance on the job, saying they had lost all confidence in him.
The motion was raised by a visibly upset Belmont North and West councillor Akil Durham during the corporation’s statutory meeting, which was chaired by acting Mayor Hillan Morean.
Durham was one of three councillors who raised an issue with the engineer, claiming he had been failing in his duties and upsetting scores of burgesses when things were not done. He cited several areas in his electoral district that needed repairs which the engineer ignored.
Councillors Abena Hartley and Allan Samuel also expressed dissatisfaction with the engineer’s poor work ethics, saying when things are not done they are painted in a bad light by burgesses who had lost faith and trust in them.
Durham said works at East Dry River had been recorded as being done “but were not done,” which he described as unacceptable.
“We had asked this engineer to pay close attention to the works done by his department. He has primary supervision of all institutions of the Port-of-Spain Corporation,” he said.
Durham said they also had issues with the transport and cleansing department.
“We have first the issue of overtime. From the time you see we have an issue of overtime…I am speaking as the chair of finance, it means that your workforce is not being properly managed,” he said, adding the council understands the financial constraints T&T has been facing.
“On several occasions we have asked the engineer to snap the whip on his managers to get a hold on that runaway horse that we call overtime, because it is crippling the corporation. Because why it is we are paying exorbitant sums of money in overtime because of lack of management and proper supervision of workers.”
Durhan said they have heard that daily and monthly paid workers would come to work at 9 am and leave by 11 am, which was against their collective bargaining agreement. He said the corporation has to protect the public’s purse.
Durham said the engineer had breached his fiduciary duty and owed burgesses a duty of loyalty and care. The engineer, who sat throughout the meeting, never defended himself. After the complaints were highlighted he walked out.
Having listened to Durham, Morean said they would communicate with the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government “that we have lost confidence in the engineer and we request that a suitable replacement be assigned to the Port-of-Spain Corporation as soon as conveniently possible. Be further resolved that the chief executive office communicate this resolution to the statutory authority service commission.”
The entire council agreed on the move.
Morean refused to provide a cell contact for the engineer, advising the media to call its CEO Annette Stapleton-Seaforth for his number. However, several calls last night to Seaforth’s cell phone went unanswered.
The T&T Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) and T&T Medical Association are supporting (TTMA) the Health Ministry’s view against retrofitting the Port-of-Spain General Hospital’s Central Block to use it again.
Unanimous views against retro-fitting and re-occupancy of the block arose at a meeting yesterday which the Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh held with T&TRNA and T&TMA heads and the North West Regional Health Authority.
Patients from the Central Block were relocated to other parts of the hospital following last week’s 6.9 magnitude earthquake.
A press release from the ministry afterwards reaffirmed commitment to the construction of a new 540-bed patient tower to replace the now decanted Central Block. The TTRNA and the TTMA were presented with two options for consideration:
• The retrofitting of the Central Block to make it appropriate for re-occupancy.
• Identification and re-purposing of clinical spaces within the compound of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital and the St. James Medical Complex.
The release stated, “In the interest of patient and staff safety, the Minister passionately expressed disagreement with the retrofitting option. However, in completeness of the option-analysis, he presented it to the stakeholders for consideration. The Minister’s position was supported and reaffirmed by the president of the TTRNA and the TTMA’s head.”
The release said discussions subsequently focused on moving ahead with the second option of re-purposing clinical space.
“This focused on three buildings on the compound of the General Hospital Port-of-Spain: a four-storey building; a two-storey building; the single-storey Allied Building; as well as available space at the St James Medical Complex. Collectively, it’s estimated these spaces can accommodate 300 in-patients.”
It added that all clinical services previously housed at the Central Block continue to operate at this time. (Gail Alexander)
National Petroleum Staff Association president Joseph Roberts is admitting that something had to be done about the state oil company Petrotrin, which has been badly managed over the years. However, he is concerned about the social impact of the closure of its refinery operations and the impact it will have on communities which depend on the company and the issue of compensation for workers who are being sent home.
The association represents about 200 monthly paid workers at the supervisory level at Petrotrin and while the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) represents the majority of workers.
“We in this together,” Roberts said yesterday, as he pointed out the state Petrotrin had found itself in was not because of the workers “who people are describing as slackers, but it is because of bad management decisions, World GTL being one of them.”
Roberts admitted that changes had to be made at Petrotrin, which had been mismanaged.
“The decisions made by previous boards led us to this situation. We had several failed projects. The South West Soldado project, which was supposed to add 3,000-plus additional barrels of oil never happened. It was poorly managed,” he said.
Roberts described it as a “watershed moment” for the company and the country.
“We have been in the oil business for over 100 years, there has been significant struggle to bring us to where we are today, this is really a watershed moment.”
He did not blame the Petrotrin board chaired by Wilfred Espinet for the current scenario, however, saying, “This is going to be targeted to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, the Rowley-led Cabinet. Mr Espinet came to do a work that he was assigned by the Rowley-led Government and he is fulfilling his mandate.”
Roberts said the decision to send home 1,700 people was significant. He said talk about the closure of the company had been circulating even before Tuesday’s announcement.
“We had been hearing through cooler talk that that was going to happen. I would have thought the Government would have thought this thing out really carefully,” he said.
But he said the workers are yet to hear anything about compensation.
Roberts said, “I expect no less than how the Caroni workers were compensated.”
Caroni 1975 Ltd was closed by the Patrick Manning administration in 2003 and workers were given a voluntary separation package which included cash and land for housing/agricultural production.
Contacted yesterday on Roberts’ comments, Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet said he was not surprised that “people are starting to posture on the negotiations,” as exit packages are formulated for the company’s more than 3,000 employees.
Roberts contends that while Petrotrin has been described as a “ward of the state, we have contributed significantly to the building of Trinidad and Tobago.” He is also concerned about the social impact of the closure of the refinery, noting that there are many small businesses which depend on Petrotrin and its employees for their survival. He was particularly concerned about the impact on communities like Marabella, Santa Flora, Forest Reserve and Fyzabad. Point Fortin, he believes, will not be severely impacted because of the Atlantic LNG Plant.
Roberts said while the intention is to transfer to a “terminal arrangement,” where fuels will be imported for local consumption, “the entire Trinidad and Tobago will feel the brunt because the cost of living will go up.” He said while he understood that as a business Petrotrin had to be a profitable entity, there are other factors to be considered, there must be some kind of social responsibility and the conversation must be on both sides.
Teachers are being asked to stay away from classrooms on September 7.
The call came from Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Lynsley Doodhai yesterday in a show of solidarity for the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), which was dealt a hard blow with Tuesday’s announcement that the Petrotrin refinery will be shut down.
The closure of the refinery is expected result in the termination of some 2,600 workers.
“Next week Friday, parents please keep your children at home, teachers will not be in school on Friday 7,” Doodhai said.
“Schools would be devoid of teachers come next week Friday. Do not waste your hard-earned money to send your children to school, the teachers won’t be there.”
His comment came during a media conference hosted by the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) at the Banking, Insurance and General Workers’ Union (BIGWU) headquarters in Barataria.
“TTUTA would hope that good sense would prevail and that the Government and Petrotrin board would reconsider the decision that they announced yesterday (Tuesday),” Doodhai said.
He said the day of rest and reflection had now assumed even greater significance in the wake of the Petrotirn decision.
“Workers are no longer going to take it. There is a saying in TTUTA, if you touch one teacher, you touch all teachers, I say this morning if you touch one worker, you touch all workers,” he said.
There was a consensus from JTUM that the Government had declared war on the workers of the country with the plan to shut down the Petrotrin refinery and send home some 2,600 workers and the trade unions said they are going to retaliate.
While several union leaders made veiled threats of action, Sheep and Goat Farmers Association president Shiraz Khan was the most vocal. He condemned Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Minister of Finance Colm Imbert, saying they need to be “dealt with”.
He said back in 2015 before the general election, the two marched in solidarity with the workers and laughed when the union insulted then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, but said they were doing worse but calling for discipline from the unions.
“September 7 is just the start. We coming for all yuh,” Khan said.
“You feel this is a game? Allyuh could just shut down and start back?” he asked, referring to the uncertain future of the Petrotrin refinery.
Khan said Rowley sat with the JTUM for 10 meetings before the 2015 general election and talked to the union about getting their support.
“Today look what he doing to we. He is taking this country down a road, it may not have no return,” Khan.
He said Rowley was being untruthful about many things in agriculture and now with the OWTU and Petrotrin.
“Today, what he is doing to the ordinary people in this country, I want to tell Rowley that this is not Caroni (1975) Ltd, this is not BWIA, this is not TTT, this is the leader of all unions,” he said, referring to Roget’s OWTU.
“We not going to take that damned stupidness from you Rowley, we not taking that and we standing with the OWTU.
“Allyuh behave allyuh self, September 7 is only the start. This man has to be dealt with and I make no bones (about it).”
Exit packages for the more than 3,000 employees at state-owned Petrotrin are being worked out but the company is in no position to say how much this exercise will cost, what exactly will be offered or how soon payments will be made.
What seems certain, however, is that the company will have to borrow money to meet the payments to staff once packages are decided upon.
But Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet told the T&T Guardian yesterday that the company is going to try as much as possible to “cushion the hardship” which employees will face.
“We will try to soften the blow as much as we can in a way that is affordable. The company has no interest in seeing people go through hardship, we will try to alleviate as much of that as possible,” Espinet said.
He said teams have been put together to work with the unions to discuss the details of the separation packages, pension and how they can bring the plant down in an orderly fashion.
So where will the money to pay the workers come from?
“Well, we have to borrow it! You have a company with no money and you have to pay off the debt, where you going to get it? Borrow it!”
He said while some people are clamouring to pay the workers “plenty money and keep them on, how does that work, where do you get the money to do that?”
Espinet said the national community must come to the understanding that “when I borrow money is your children money I borrowing and I am trying to convey that to people, stop getting into these la-la land things. Let us stop making this place some kind of Alice in Wonderland for us to believe this is how it works.”
Espinet said counselling will be offered to workers “in terms of the impact on people psychologically and counselling in terms of where they may find other opportunities and so on.” The compensation to be paid to workers, he said, could provide them with “an opportunity to redirect their focus.”
He admitted there are “no guarantees” that the new model of Petrotrin would work,” but said the guarantee is that proper management will produce the right results.
“We have to be careful we don’t fall into the same trap of going back to the same process. You have to get the right people there, you going to have to drill, you going to have to do a number of things. The most important thing at this stage is to make it into a condition where it can pay the existing debt. Having done that we will look at the next stage,” Espinet said.
Espinet lamented that Petrotrin had got to the stage that it had because of those who had the mission to lead the company in the past. “Petrotrin has been mismanaged and whether or not people knew it, I would say yes they knew because they were doing it to their benefit and they all benefitted from it. There were very high people involved. They see it losing money year in year out and they did not understand that it could not go on forever.”
He said harsh decisions had to be taken because “if we don’t preserve what value we have we will destroy it and everybody will go down. We are hoping that what we are doing will preserve the value because it is destroying value at a hell of a rate.”
He said an analysis of the company indicated that if the refinery was kept open they will $2 billion a year.
“Put that in the context of what is the working population of Trinidad and Tobago, which is about 700,000 people, and they are the ones who are going to be paying that a year to keep 1,700 people employed,” he said.
“You want to say we should have 1,700 people take us all down? I have a little bit of difficulty with that. The purpose of the refinery cannot be to employ 1,700 people.”
He again dismissed the allegation from the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) that a private company is behind the scene waiting to get Petrotrin’s assets.
“That is playing on people’s emotions. Self-preservation is a major driving force in it. He (Roget) thinks people trying to close down his union, but what interest would I have in doing that?”
Asked whether there had been any discussion with the French company Perenco about Petrotrin, Espinet said, “The answer is absolutely not.”
Perenco bought over the assets of Repsol from BP and had brought the cost of production per barrel of oil down considerably, according to Espinet. But he said contrary to what the union was saying there is no conspiracy to bring in any company.
He said the urgency of the decision had to do with the bullet payment of US$850 million due in August next year.
“That bond payment is not guaranteed by the Government explicitly, but it is implicitly guaranteed by the Government. That means that the bondholders expect that the Government is going to pay if Petrotrin can’t pay it, which it can’t in its current state,” Espinet said.