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2019 file picture: A fuel tanker leaves the Paria Fuel Company bond in Pointe-a-Pierre.

Gail Alexander

Is Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited a loss-making entity?

That’s the query raised in the Senate yesterday by United National Congress (UNC), Senator Wade Mark, after he was told by Government that Paria Fuel Trading Company is “at times” self-sufficient and “at other times” needs Government support to get foreign exchange.

The information was given to him by Minister in Finance Allyson West who said Government had to give the company access to a Central Bank facility in 2019 to get foreign exchange.

She was replying to Mark’s question which called for Government indicate the total amount of money which Government has had to provide to Paria to cover its shortfall in foreign currency needed for procurement of fuel supplies from December 2018 to January 31, 2020.

West said in December 2018-19, Paria sourced foreign exchange internally through commercial banks as it had difficulty in getting amounts of foreign exchange (Forex) required. The company got access to a US Forex facility via Central Bank.

From June 2019 to January 2020, Paria used it to access (US)$69 million to cover a shortfall in foreign exchange needed to cover fuel supply for the T&T market.

West said in Paria’s initial operations, the company was self-sufficient regarding Forex, but from May 2019 it had difficulty sourcing foreign exchange. She said this was why the Finance Ministry gave Paria access to the CBTT facility.

West said Paria is in the business of trading in energy products and its Forex needs vary due to type of energy product. She said the company is self–sufficient at times and at other times may need Government support to get Forex.

Mark then asked if Paria was a loss-making entity but the query wasn’t allowed by Senate President Christine Kangaloo.

On another query, Energy Minister Franklin Khan said the proposed Niquan plant in Point-a-Pierre, is expected to start commercial operations by August 30.

The amount of natural gas which will be supplied to the plant is 31 million standard cubic feet per day. The contract is for ‘well beyond’ 10 years, Khan said.

Khan who was absent due to illness in recent weeks said he was happy to return to Senate.

Meanwhile the first order of Senate business yesterday was the declaration of the vacancy of the Senate seat held by ex-Minister Robert Le Hunte who resigned from Cabinet last week.

Replacing him in the Senate was PNM Barataria/ San Juan candidate Jason Williams who was seated at the end of Government’s back bench.