PM: We have done reasonably well

Tuesday, January 8, 2019 - 07:00

T&T’s debt-to-GDP ra­tio is de­creas­ing, en­er­gy ex­ports are in­creas­ing and nat­ur­al gas pro­duc­tion is on the up­swing, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley an­nounced in the sec­ond part of his ad­dress to the na­tion broad­cast on Mon­day night.

“That is called get­ting the job done,” he said.

Con­tin­u­ing with a pre­sen­ta­tion loaded with da­ta, Row­ley com­pared the sit­u­a­tion in T&T to oth­er oil-rich na­tions when com­mod­i­ty prices col­lapsed. He said while coun­tries like Sau­di Ara­bia, Qatar and Nige­ria in­creased tax­es and cut back on so­cial ser­vices, that had not been the case in T&T.

“We have not col­lapsed and hell is not our for­tune. We have done rea­son­ably well,” he said, not­ing that VAT had been re­duced, the tax-free al­lowance to in­di­vid­u­als had been in­creased, along with grants and so­cial ser­vices.

On the is­sue of Petrotrin, Row­ley said it was one of the few oil com­pa­nies in the world owned by the peo­ple and up to the time of Gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­ven­tion was sad­dled with $13 bil­lion in debt.

He said 100,000 bar­rels of oil a day was be­ing im­port­ed to keep the Pointe-a-Pierre re­fin­ery go­ing and was be­ing paid for in a debt arrange­ment in which the com­pa­ny in­curred dai­ly loss­es of be­tween US$4 and US$7 per bar­rel.

He said the fore­cast was for $2 bil­lion in loss­es every year go­ing for­ward. Be­tween 2014 and 2018 Petrotrin suf­fered $8.8 bil­lion in loss­es.

“An oil com­pa­ny is not to cost you mon­ey, it is to make mon­ey for you,” he said.

Row­ley said in the re­struc­tured arrange­ment, Her­itage Pe­tro­le­um Com­pa­ny will ser­vice the debt owed by Petrotrin, leav­ing more mon­ey for the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance to do oth­er things.

Ac­cord­ing to the Prime Min­is­ter, while in 2016/17 his ad­min­is­tra­tion set about to re­duce the fu­el sub­sidy, it is still cost­ing the coun­try al­most $1 bil­lion.

Row­ley, who de­clared that T&T will not go the IMF, said Gov­ern­ment’s strat­e­gy is to be­come more ef­fi­cient, by cut­ting out cor­rup­tion and waste.

He said sav­ings of $1.26 bil­lion had been achieved by re-ten­der­ing on some ma­jor projects, in­clud­ing the Cu­mu­to high­way which was re­duced from $550 mil­lion through open trans­par­ent ten­der to $400 mil­lion and the Curepe fly­over which went from $412 mil­lion down to $221 mil­lion.

Row­ley said go­ing for­ward in ad­di­tion to up­stream en­er­gy sec­tor projects, Gov­ern­ment has em­barked on a pro­gramme for di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of the econ­o­my. He iden­ti­fied the Phoenix Park In­dus­tri­al Es­tate, the La Brea Dry Dock­ing Fa­cil­i­ty, Aripo Agri­cul­ture Pro­gramme and the agro pro­cess­ing plant be­ing de­vel­oped in Moru­ga as some of the projects that will dri­ve the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion thrust.

He al­so iden­ti­fied trans­port projects and pro­grammes, in­clud­ing com­ple­tion of the Point Fortin High­way, Va­len­cia to To­co road ex­pan­sion, To­co port and the high­way ex­ten­sion to Man­zanil­la.

He said in the plan to link Trinidad and To­ba­go through To­co, the in­ten­tion is for the Galleons Pas­sage to even­tu­al­ly op­er­ate on that sea route.