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Saturday 20 April 2019
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The Dragon must dance

ON SATURDAY, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro shook hands to seal the Dragon gas deal that will see TT for the first time processing Venezuelan natural gas. The deal has been welcomed by several business stakeholders, including the San Fernando Business Association (SFBA), the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce and the Couva/Pt Lisas Chamber of Commerce.

While the fine print has not been revealed, it is clear the arrangement is in the interest of Trinidad and Tobago in principle both in terms of potential economic gain and social and political impact at home and in the region. Crucially, the agreement underlines the importance of stability in Venezuela to this country’s destiny and vice versa. This is a Dragon that must dance.

The basic outline of the deal is that TT and its partner, Shell, will build an 18-kilometre pipeline from the Hibiscus platform, off the northwest tip of TT, to the Dragon field which has reserves of 2.4 trillion cubic feet. From Hibiscus, the gas will then be transferred through existing infrastructure to Point Lisas and other National Gas Company customers. The Dragon gas field is owned by Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

TT will pay PDVSA for the gas, helping that country monetise its hydrocarbon assets.

Rowley said the deal was borne out of concern for TT’s longevity in the hydrocarbons business. “Now we have successfully come to the point where the two most important aspects have been agreed to: volume and price,” Rowley said.

It is not clear when remaining aspects will be finalised, though a previous timeline indicated a first tranche of 150 million standard cubic feet by 2020. The deal gives this country more cause for concern over the state of affairs in Venezuela.

The humanitarian crisis playing out there has led to one of the largest mass migrations in Latin America’s history.

The UN says 2.3 million people have fled, or seven per cent of the country.

Though the country has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, its economy is in tatters. Four in five Venezuelans live in poverty. People are dying because of a lack of medicines. Inflation, already at 82,766 per cent, may hit one million per cent by year’s end.

Maduro says he can help TT fight crime. But it seems he already has his hands full. This month he survived what was reported to be an assassination attempt by drone. Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee has questioned whether benefits will actually materialise or whether, instead, this is merely public relations.

One thing is certain, the deal brings us closer to Venezuela than ever before. It can be lucrative for both sides. For it to be lasting, Venezuela must be a country at peace with itself.

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