Commentary: We Need to Restart Point-a-Pierre Refinery

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By Neil Gosine

PRESIDENT General of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget looks today like the biggest bobolee that Trinidad and Tobago has ever seen after being blanked three times in his bid to purchase the Petrotrin refinery from the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley-run Government

I find it astounding that the Government touted that they would have signed a contract with the OWTU or rather its company Patriotic Enenery and Technologies Company to reopen Petrotrin.

Patriotic was chosen as the preferred bidder of the coveted Petrotrin’s assets before the 2020 general elections but soon after, they were blanked not once, not twice, but thrice.

The Government spent much time and energies convincing the population that the closure was the only course of action due to the massive drain of the public purse.

Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company was the preferred bidder to buy the refinery. Now the minister of finance after debunking its bid as a terrible deal for the people of T&T, said in February 2021 that the refinery bidding process will go back onto the open market.

The number of times the Government rejected Patriotic’s bid would be considered comical if it was not such a travesty played out in the public domain.

Last October, the Government rejected its bid, but then gave an extension for another one when Roget begged Prime Minister Rowley and it was again rejected in January 2021

Then in February 2021, for a third time, the Government rejected an offer by its preferred bidder Patriotic.

The closure of Petrotrin has had ripple effects throughout our country, the impact to the economy, the former employees and their families were devastating.

It has had a domino effect, not to mention putting thousands of families on the breadline, as well as hundreds of contractors and service companies that depended on work from the former state-run company.

Petrotrin workers affected by the closure were in excess of 6,000 inclusive of direct staff, contracted employees and contractors with several downstream service providers.

Of this number, at least 60% were sole breadwinners for their families. The financial impact, reduction in purchasing power and standard of living with more than 3,500 families are mind boggling not to mention the psychological factors of being unemployed.

The impact on their families to pay mortgages and bills has left this part of the country a skeleton of its previous self.

When someone loses a job there are mental effects that impact on them. The problem is more severe for a single-parent provider in a family.

Higher unemployment rates have run rampant in the country yet we haven’t seen or heard from Roget on this matter. In fact, we have experienced one of our highest unemployment rates since 1980s.

Unemployment ranges from highly skilled to unskilled inclusive of geologists, engineers, accountants, HSSE professionals, lawyers, operators, technicians, mechanics, pipe fitters, laborers, janitors,  the list goes on. Unemployment also extended to contract services and subcontractors.

This has had a downward impact as GDP continues to spiral downward, as production is reduced and the importation bill has risen.

We are in a dire state for foreign exchange that is crippling a lot of our local companies, many shutting their doors.

Downstream economic stimulation has totally dried up as food places in Marabella, Pointe-a-Pierre and Gasparillo suffered severe losses that continued in the Covid-19 pandemic.

That’s why it’s so important to get this refinery operational again and start the process of rebuilding our idle assets.

Neil Gosine is a former chairman of the National Petroleum Marketing Company of Trinidad and Tobago

The views and comments express in this commentary are not necessarily those of a division of Complete Image Limited.


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