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Wednesday 17 October 2018
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Letters to the Editor

Busting our national business

THE EDITOR: Do the governments we put in charge of our business understand our business? Government, in its 2019 budget, made an instant proclamation on super gas...$1 more per litre. This is how it was put: “per litre”. “Well”, said many in the Republic, “just one dollar more, that can’t be too bad.”

But they had not calculated properly. Government had done all the calculation. If your gas tank has a capacity of 60 litres, then it takes $60 more to fill your tank. For those who use super, this is a 25% increase in their gas budget; we have jumped from $3.58 to $3.97 to $4.97, in quick budgetary time...per litre.

Of course, it is not the ordinary citizens, the ultimate stakeholders in our oil-based economy, who bust this economy. Government’s bad Petrotrin projects, its failure to manage, its injection of party hacks into corporate boardrooms, have busted this business.

PETROTRIN

In January, a collaborative restructuring process for Petrotrin was put in train. Reports were commissioned. The reports, the union, the board agreed that deep and meaningful restructuring was required. On April 3, a MOA was signed between the OWTU and the Petrotrin Board committing to a timeline of restructuring.

Within two weeks of the agreement, which carried the weight of law, having been taken to the state registry and stamped, a Technical Group met with the Board. A panic button, melodramatic and moralizing, still raging in our Republic, was pushed.

An option was chosen, arising from discussions between the Board and the Technical Group, to abort the restructuring process, “shut” down the refinery, send home all workers, focus on Exploration and Drilling rather than Refining and Marketing of processed fuels products, and run the company according to “international benchmarks.”

This option was taken to cabinet which approved it. The Industrial Court was now saddled with the onerous task of determining whether the Board (Prime Minister, Cabinet, State) had a legal responsibility to afford the OWTU, armed with a MOA, an opportunity to participate in this critical, far-reaching decision option. Of course, the state lost; and now rather than honourably and sensibly sitting down and talking with the OWTU, it has appealed.

One question is, did it have to reach this far? Now, if there is a Panadol shortage at POS General, it is the OWTU’s and Petrotrin’s fault. The nation is being called on to bash workers, union and the company using selective or false information. Rancour, stealth, demonization and arbitrariness to the hilt.

Will not all current and future litigation costs have to be borne by the people? Will not sterner and sterner versions of property tax have to be invented to reimburse these costly mishaps, blunders and apparent derelictions? Is this how to run the business of the people, lands and communities of Trinidad and Tobago?

TAR SANDS

The Government is now requesting proposals for the mining of Tar Sands in South Trinidad. Have they studied economies of scale for this option? Extracting oil from sand and tar is costly and requires optimal finds and scale to be lucrative. We are not Canada. Has the state done stringent studies of the social, ecological and financial costs?

Of strip mining? Control and disposal of significant volumes tar-based effluents? And finally, why are we going back there? Has government not taken enough licks on smelters? Incurring astronomical wasted costs? And politically, does government have a political death-wish? Petrotrin. Ten low and middle-income high rises on the St Joseph Government Farm? Tar sands?

This Republic needs a government to conduct our business well and rationally. Humankind is nearing the upsurge and swing of a protonic and photonic revolution. Protons and electrons are being loaded onto miniatured and wafered chips; tiny particles, miniscule traces of energy are now being harnessed to conduct the most complex and arduous labours and tasks; to provide communications, information, intelligence, remote control.

More and more photons are being loaded onto solar panels, cells; to provide electricity, food, water, transportation. If our governments are not thinking, planning an architecture to link the old fossil fuels economy, and this new Einsteinian, photonic and protonic one, it is not really doing progress, doing international benchmarking, doing our business well.

Petrotrin’s oil fuels economy has a good thirty years left. However, this fossil economy will become extinct. WASA, T&TEC, Petrotrin will have to eventually go. But how? Our governments and our peoples should be developing architecture to link the old fossil-fuel energy economy with the emerging self-sustaining protonic and photonic one. The link should be as seamless, thoughtful and strategic as possible. Not blundering, blustering, callous and despotic.

Wayne Kublalsingh

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