Petroleum Dealers Association president Robin Naraynsingh

The Petroleum Dealers Cooperative Society is welcoming the move by Government to put up National Petroleum fuel stations for sale.

The association’s president Robin Narayansingh said 65 gas stations belonging to the State would now have new owners.

In presenting the fiscal package for 2021 Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert made the announcement – with the first option being offered to existing dealers.

Imbert also confirmed a liberalisation of the fuel market from January 2021, when fixed retail margins for all liquid petroleum products will be removed.

This would allow retail dealers to fix their own margins.

He said wholesale margins will remain fixed for the time and an appropriate but reasonable tax will be introduced to compensate for the current fuel surplus that is generated on the sale of gasoline because of depressed oil prices.

The net result, Imbert said, should be little or no increase in the price of motor fuels at current oil prices and if the price of oil recovers, the price of gasoline and diesel will naturally increase.

Responding to what he described as “good news” by Imbert, Narayansingh stated the sale would change the landscape of the industry, provide a better service to the nation, give operators a sense of security and even generate jobs.

Under Basdeo Panday’s UNC-led administration, Narayansingh said the association had asked the then government to sell the stations but they were ignored.

Narayansingh said there are 150 fuel stations in T&T which employ about 1,200 workers.

Of this figure, Unipet manages 25.

“The sale is something we always wanted because many of us have been working in a business for decades and if you want to retire….NP would just take it away.”

Narayansingh drew reference to one Point Fortin operator who managed a gas station for 60 years and ran into a financial problem.

“The station was taken away from the guy. I was so horrified by that kind of behaviour that you would treat people with such contempt.”

He called on NP to reach out to the association to have meaningful dialogue on this new development.

“It would be disastrous if NP thinks they can own gas stations and manage it the way it has been managed in the past. The management of NP has to improve.”

Thanking Imbert for taking the bold initiative, Narayansingh said the sale will open up the market for keen competition among the operators.

“I know some people think that the operators will rip off motorists by jacking up their fuel prices. But we are responsible and will dispense our responsibility to the best of our ability.”

He said drivers will now have the option to full their tanks at a station of their choice based on the price, safety and service received.

The cost of each gas station, he said would vary depending on its age, assets, location, condition and rent paid to NP.

“All of these things have to be taken into consideration when selling. You must have consideration for the goodwill the dealer has put in.”

He said many of the stations’ tanks that store fuel need upgrading.

“Several gas stations are in a deplorable condition.”

In August, the Government announced a boost for fuel wholesalers and retailers with an increase in their profit margins for gasoline.

This took their gross profit margin from four to six per cent.

He said while some citizens have expressed concern that the Government has been selling State-owned companies, Narayansingh said other countries have implemented similar moves to ensure its viability and sustainability.

Narayansingh said he hoped the dealers are not taken advantage of when the sale begins.