RADHICA DE SILVA
T&T’s energy sector is facing near collapse and valuable foreign exchange is being wasted on fuel imports at a time when the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery could have been opened.
That assessment from the political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), David Abdulah.
Speaking to the media during a press conference on Sunday 20 December 2020, Abdulah said both the energy sector and the non-energy sector took a hit this year.
Quoting from a report from the Central Bank, Abdulah said there was a 49.6 per cent decline of methanol production in 2020 compared to 2019.
“Ammonia output declined by 16.8 per cent compared to last year. In terms of the total economy, there was a 7.5 per cent decline in 2020, compared to 2019. The non-energy sector fell by 7.7 per cent because of COVID-19,” Abdulah said.
He noted that this near collapse of the energy sector would mean a further loss of jobs.
“A one-fifth decline is worrisome. It impacts us because when plants close, we get job loss and layoffs. This decline in employment is even worse as there also is unemployment in the retail sector because of COVID-19,” Abdulah said.
He noted that those businesses servicing energy companies also will be affected by the decline in economic activity.
Abdulah said when export commodities like ammonia, methanol, liquified natural gas decline, T&T does not get foreign exchange and the government’s revenues fall.
“We have a loss of foreign exchange,” he points out. “On Friday the Minister of Finance had a press conference and he said T&T’s forex situation is very challenging, that it is going to be a tough 2021. Business people don’t have the Forex to bring in goods. One element of the Forex problem is the collapse of the energy sector which is the principal earner of Foreign exchange. It earns 90 per cent of forex,” Abdulah said.
He noted that it was important for the government to give Patriotic Energies the opportunity to restart the refinery so that T&T could begin to earn foreign exchange.
“The Ministry of Finance said the Central Bank have had to provide Paria Fuel Trading company with US $20 million to pay for fuel. We’ve never had to pay for fuel in US dollars before,” he said.
Abdulah also had a message for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
“With just a few days away from Christmas, don’t be a scrooge and back squeeze something saying you are saving, when what you are doing is causing pain for all of T&T. The only positive way this refinery sale could take place is for Patriotic to be awarded the ownership and control of the refinery,” Abdulah said.
He said this will result in thousands of people getting jobs.