Kamla: Threat to T&T's fuel supply

Is there a short­age of fu­el? Will there be an in­crease in the price of fu­el?

Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar raised these ques­tions at the Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress Mon­day night meet­ing in Fyz­abad based on a doc­u­ment left in her mail­box. The let­ter by chair­man of Trinidad Pe­tro­le­um Hold­ings Lim­it­ed Wil­fred Es­pinet to En­er­gy Min­is­ter Franklin Khan was about a month­ly short­fall of US$20 mil­lion to pur­chase re­fined fu­el to sup­ply the coun­try.

 

Paria Fu­el Trad­ing, one of the four com­pa­nies which re­placed Petrotrin, was es­tab­lished to buy fu­el on the in­ter­na­tion­al mar­ket for sale to NP and Unipet. Per­sad-Bisses­sar said the com­pa­ny is in se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial trou­ble

"This pos­es a sig­nif­i­cant threat to the sup­ply of fu­el to the na­tion," she warned

The UNC leader al­so ac­cused the PNM ad­min­is­tra­tion of caus­ing Na­tion­al Gas Com­pa­ny's fi­nan­cial woes. She read from a Trinidad Pe­tro­le­um let­ter dat­ed June 7 be­fore a large crowd of sup­port­ers at Fyz­abad Sec­ondary School and de­clared: "What this let­ter tells us is that we are in for some se­ri­ous trou­ble with re­spect to the sup­ply of fu­el."

In the let­ter, Es­pinet lists some of the key im­me­di­ate risks, in­clud­ing the on­go­ing short­fall of US$20 mil­lion a month to pur­chase re­fined fu­els. Per­sad-Bisses­sar de­scribed this as "a struc­tur­al prob­lem that is go­ing to re­sult in a short­age of fu­els un­less cor­rect­ed."

She added: "That is not los­ing mon­ey that is haem­or­rhag­ing mon­ey . . . Does this mean that they will in­crease the price of fu­el at the pumps for you? What­ev­er it means, it is clear as day that Paria Fu­el Trad­ing, the com­pa­ny with the sole re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for im­port­ing this coun­try's fu­el—su­per, diesel, pre­mi­um, kerosene and jet fu­el—is in big trou­ble."

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said sec­ond im­me­di­ate risk out­lined in the let­ter is "the fail­ure to im­ple­ment ex-ter­mi­nal pric­ing for im­port­ed fu­el, de­spite the com­pa­ny and Min­is­ter of En­er­gy hav­ing de­vel­oped a for­mu­la since No­vem­ber 2018."

She claimed this was the rea­son for the rush in Par­lia­ment re­cent­ly to pass amend­ments to the Pe­tro­le­um Act and Pe­tro­le­um Pro­duc­tion Sub­sidy and Levy Act.

Not­ing that

Win­fred is say­ing that should have been done last year when Petrotrin was shut down and they start­ed im­port­ing fu­el, she said: "That has to be the height of neg­li­gence on the part of the Min­is­ter of En­er­gy."

The Op­po­si­tion Leader de­scribed the Petrotrin clo­sure as the biggest eco­nom­ic tragedy in the coun­try's his­to­ry.

She said an­oth­er prob­lem high­light­ed by Es­pinet was the in­abil­i­ty to se­cure two let­ters from the min­istry and the Board of In­land Rev­enue to close the 2018 year-end au­dit and fi­nalise long term fi­nanc­ing. Re­quests for both these let­ters have been pur­sued dai­ly for sev­er­al months, she point­ed out.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said this means that Petrotrin can­not pub­lish fi­nan­cial re­ports for 2018 be­cause of out­stand­ing is­sues re­gard­ing roy­al­ty pay­ments to the Min­istry and tax­es owed.

She ques­tioned the over­all cost of re­fi­nanc­ing Petrotrin's US$850 mil­lion bond debt and the shut­ting down of the en­er­gy com­pa­ny.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said a UNC gov­ern­ment would re­con­sol­i­date Petrotrin as a ful­ly rein­te­grat­ed com­pa­ny and kick start the re­fin­ery.

She said NGC is in se­ri­ous trou­ble be­cause of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence and when Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley and Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young went to Hous­ton to meet with of­fi­cials of ma­jor gas com­pa­nies "they got to­tal­ly out­smart­ed."

She said: "The end re­sult is that the NGC now has to pay a lot more to buy the nat­ur­al gas and, guess what, they have to sell at a low­er price than they buy­ing be­cause the price they ne­go­ti­at­ed was too high. NGC now is in se­ri­ous trou­ble."

This could be one of the rea­sons why Ger­ry Brooks re­signed as chair­man of the com­pa­ny, she sug­gest­ed.

On the is­sue of there be­ing no for­mal lease be­tween the state and the fam­i­ly of At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Al-Rawi for the mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar rental at 1 Alexan­dre Place, Per­sad-Bisses­sar re­ferred to a doc­u­ment from the Com­mis­sion­er of State Lands to the Com­mis­sion­er of Val­u­a­tions dat­ed April 15, 2019, about the prop­er­ty. She said the land was leased for 199 years at an an­nu­al rental of one shilling for the pur­pose of erect­ing a sin­gle pri­vate dwelling house. By sub­se­quent deed of as­sign­ments, the land was trans­ferred to NJ Na­hous In­vest­ments Lim­it­ed. The PNM be­gan rent­ing the build­ing known as 1 Alexan­dra Place on that land in 2009 and ac­cord­ing to the 2019 draft lease, the pro­posed rental is $600,000 plus VAT.

She said the doc­u­ment from the Com­mis­sion­er of State Lands shows that it was by let­ter dat­ed Feb­ru­ary 9, 2017, the Na­hous com­pa­ny re­quest­ed a change of use for the premis­es from a sin­gle pri­vate dwelling house to com­mer­cial.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar won­dered why there was no pub­lic out­cry and out­rage about the is­sue.

Reporter: Sascha Wilson

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