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NP Gas Station at Cross Crossing San Fernando. (Image: KRISTIAN DE SILVA)

The sale of gas stations owned by National Petroleum and the privatisation of the port of Port-of-Spain are two measures which are long overdue, Brian Hackett the Territory Leader of PwCTrinidad and Tobago has said.

Hackett made the statement in the PwC’s budget memorandum titled Recover and Reset – 2020 and beyond.

“We applaud the firm decisions taken by the Government to take some initial concrete steps to restructure the state sector, reset the economy and curtail expenditure both at the public and private sector levels. In particular, we applaud the removal of the imposition of fixed retail margins for all liquid petroleum products for petroleum retailers and dealers,” Hackett stated.

“Additionally, gas stations owned by the Trinidad and Tobago National Petroleum Marketing Co (NP) will now be offered for sale to the private sector with first preference to be given to existing dealers and concessionaires,” he stated.

“While it is not the only, or indeed, the most important criterion that should guide the divestment of public assets, we do await further details on how this divestment will be configured to ensure that value to the people to Trinidad and Tobago is appropriately maximised whilst ensuring the widest practical coverage of retail stations remains within our twin island state,” Hackett said.

He then mentioned the government’s plans to “privatise the managerial, operational and financial responsibility for commercial activities of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago.

“We are hopeful that this privatisation will be undertaken in the context of a coherent and implementable national port policy. Both measures have been long overdue, and we look forward to further initiatives in the coming years to reduce the regrettable extent to which the state still participates in our local economy,” Hackett said.

Hackett said it is PwC’s hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to provide real and sustainable impetus to implement much needed measures such as the digitalisation of the public sector and the narrowing of the digital divide across the nation.

“Given the systemic inequality which the pandemic has further revealed with respect to the ability of all of our students to gain access to effective tuition, we are hopeful that the initiative to provide 45,000 internet WiFi hotspots for students in need, the expansion of existing Wi-Fi hotspots and the establishment of internet cafes across all areas of the country will have the intended effect of balancing the scales within our education system and indeed our wider society,” he stated.

Hackett said the pandemic has shown us exactly how interconnected and interdependent we are.

“However, it also resulted in one positive for our small nation as digitalisation could provide regional and wider global opportunities. The digitalisation of the country could be the catalyst to move many businesses from a market of potential buyers of 1.4 million to over 7 billion,” Hackett stated.

“From our PwC experience, I can attest that had we not made the move a few years ago to digitalisation of almost every aspect of our operations, the adaptation to the so called ‘new normal’ would not have been as seamless for our team and to the contrary, it would have required a sudden and deep learning curve for our business,” he stated.