THE initial field of 70 companies vying to buy the moth-balled former Petrotrin refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre has now been whittled down to “25 serious bidders,” said Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
In the House of Representatives on Friday he piloted a bill to authorise the functioning of Paria Fuel Trade Company, that amends the Petroleum, Petroleum Production Levy and Subsidy and Income Tax Acts.
Imbert said 45 companies had been removed from the list of bidders by way of a pre-qualification process.
He said no fly-by-night company could run the refinery which he said was a one billion -dollar operation. Only serious bids were now being considered, he said.
Saying 25 bidders was a “huge number” and “a quite significant number,” he said the deadline for their bids is June 15 or 16.
Imbert reckoned the refinery would be up and running this year.
“We expect refinery to become operational by end of this year,” he said.
Imbert otherwise said the bill facilitates the operations of Paria whether it ends up trading in foreign imported oil and/or in oil refined at a newly-revived Pointe-a-Pierre refinery. The bill refers to both ex-terminal and ex-refinery prices respectively for imported and domestic refined oils.
Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee stoutly objected to the House having to debate a government bill on the one day in a month set aside for private members under the standing orders.
He said Imbert sounded like he did not know what he was doing in piloting the bill and said the minister might have been set up.
Lee said, “To be debating government business on a private members day and they don’t know what they brought, we have a problem with that.”
He questioned the bill. “This bill is not retroactive, so all transactions done by Paria are outside the law. That’s why we are here today. We are now trying to legalise something that is illegal.”
Lee said since 2018 the Government had ignored the urging of ministry technocrats to bring such legislation.
He lamented that overnight the country went from being a fuel exporter, Paria must now have to line up at private banks to seek US$20 million each month.
Lee hit the Government’s closure of the refinery as wicked.