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Opposition MP for Princes Town Barry Padarath addresses the media during the UNC weekly briefing at the Opposition office, Charles Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

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Is the Government seeking to close down the Telecommunications Services (TSTT) as it did with the Petroleum Company (Petrotrin) back in 2018?It was among several questions posed by Princes Town MP Barry Padarath at the United National Congress (UNC) Sunday Media Briefing.

Padarath, the UNC’s shadow minister of public utilities, said a previous People’s National Movement (PNM) administration articulated its plan to privatise TSTT.

However, the People’s Partnership (PP) General Election victory in 2010 thwarted its efforts. He said the PP met TSTT in an unprofitable state and addressed the issues.

The company went on to record millions in profits annually.

However, since the PNM took over in 2015, there was a steady decline leading to the point where job losses are on the horizon. Padarath said some management players who oversaw the unprofitable days have returned. He wants to know what were recommendations it gave to the Government to save the company. “We are seeing where TSTT was profitable under Kamla Persad-Bissessar as Prime Minister during the period 2010-2015: registered millions of dollars in profits on the books of TSTT.

The PNM assumes office at the end of 2015, and then you continue to see the company decline to where we are today in the red. Is it that the company is being purposely driven into the ground to ensure that the company is not profitable, the company is not viable, so, therefore, the Government can take the position that they will private and send home workers?” While Padarath admits that Voice Over Internet Protocols and other technology impacted the telecommunications industry, it did not happen yesterday.

He said the Government took a hands-off approach to the issues at the company, with Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales hiding behind TSTT CEO Lisa Agard. He said government policy comes from the Cabinet, but what was developing might be its attempt to privatise TSTT.“Their attempt is really to privatise TSTT by demonising the workers in terms of restructuring, and we saw that happening with Petrotrin. We saw all of the challenges in terms of the demonising of workers at Petrotrin even though we had the assurance that Petrotrin was not going to be closed down.”

Mayaro MP Rushton Paray said the Government presides over the worst economic crisis T&T experienced in decades. He said thousands of small businesses shut down, resulting in massive job losses over the last six years. He said a report submitted by the National Insurance Board two weeks ago through a court order shows that contributions fell by 21.8 per cent between 2015 and 2020.

The report showed that there was a decline of 112,729 individual contributions. “That means, effectively that 112,729 workers, each supporting family who are sending children to school, were put on the breadline under the watch of this PNM administration,” Paray said.

He said this indicated that the actual unemployment rate stood at approximately 20 per cent, where one in every five workers are home.