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Wednesday 22 May 2019
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Chambers divided on PM’s speech

Dr Thackwray Driver, president of the Energy Chamber. File Photo
Dr Thackwray Driver, president of the Energy Chamber. File Photo

BUSINESS organisations in the country Monday expressed different views about the Prime Minister’s address to the nation about Petrotrin on Sunday. Energy Chamber CEO Dr Thackwray Driver said the chamber has long advocated that Petrotrin be run as a commercial entity.

He said Dr Rowley “very clearly outlined” the reasons why Petrotrin reached the state it has and why it had to be restructured. Driver said Petrotrin’s board took a business decision to close the refinery in order to help the company become sustainable and the Government has approved it.

While concerned about the effects the refinery’s closure will have on workers and some of its own members, Driver said it makes no sense looking back at this stage. He said the chamber will do what it can to support a restructured Petrotrin and help it access new business opportunities. Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce president Vishnu Charan said Rowley was “very clear and precise” about what had to be done with Petrotrin. Charan said it was impractical to keep operating any business that was losing $2 billion annually.

He said the PM’s statement reconfirmed the need to reorganise Petrotrin into a new entity. Charan agreed that Petrotrin in its current form is negatively impacting other services in TT. He said it was possible some Petrotrin workers could be able to find employment in Guyana’s emerging energy sector.

San Fernando Business Association president Daphne Bartlett and Couva/Pt Lisas Chamber of Commerce president Ramchand Rajbal Maraj were disappointed with the PM’s address.

“Come better than that Mr Prime Minister,” Bartlett said. While Petrotrin needed to be restructured, Bartlett said Rowley did not outline a clear strategy for achieving this. She described the PM’s statement about the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) being given the first option to purchase Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery as “madness.”

Bartlett also said not enough consideration was being given as to how the restructuring of Petrotrin will affect its fence line communities. She said there are unanswered questions about the fake oil scandal and whether Petrotrin paid taxes between 2011 and 2015. Bartlett believed that a buyer for the refinery could be “lurking around.”

Maraj said everyone agrees it cannot be business as usual at Petrotrin.

He was concerned about ripple effects which the closure of Petrotrin’s refinery could have on South and Central Trinidad. Maraj said this compounded the closures of the Arcelor Mittal steel plant and Caroni (1975) Ltd.

He did not know whether the OWTU had the necessary financial backing to buy the refinery or the knowledge to operate it. Maraj was hopeful Government, the OWTU and other stakeholders could work out a proper way to restructure Petrotrin.

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