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Saturday 19 October 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Can the OWTU succeed where Petrotrin failed?

THE EDITOR: The politics associated with Petrotrin has been daring, positive and for PNM supporters, successful. The Keith Rowley PNM administration can boast of stopping Petrotrin’s financial drain on the treasury, restructuring its loan without additional commitment from the Government and retrenching workers without the disturbances and visits to individuals’ homes that usually accompany such action.

It can be seen as a stroke of genius to have engaged the services of someone with the social, business and tactical acumen of Wilfred Espinet to spearhead the restructure.

The choice of the OWTU’s Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd (PET) is another politically pleasing move as it allows those who support the unions and the PNM to feel a sense of accomplishment. It is important to note, however, that while the politics may be pleasing, the Petrotrin deal and success or failure has to do with business and economics.

TT does not have a good history of successful business practices, especially in areas where there is some level of government intervention. One can easily conclude that the expertise and tact of international businessmen supersede that of our local politicians and appointed negotiators.

The agreements with companies in the oil and gas sector have been the subject of much discussion with regard to whether TT got fair value for its resources. Caribbean history is rich with stories of exploitation of the resources of the Caribbean people that leaves one to wonder if there are people with the appropriate wisdom to arrive at fair deals for both sides.

Whether its Haiti’s debt to France or the trade deals that allowed companies to explore Guyana’s gold, diamond, bauxite and lumber, Jamaica’s tourist and bauxite industry, the sugar cane and rum investments of the smaller Caribbean islands or the energy industry of TT, there have always been questions about exploitation. PET’s success or failure is directly tied to its ability to conduct successful negotiations on the international market.

In TT there are six months of rainfall each year and flooding in low-lying areas, yet the Water and Sewage Authority (WASA) pays a private company in US dollars to extract water from the sea, remove the salt, treat the water and sell it back to us.

No one in either the Government or Opposition had or have the business and patriotic common sense to see value in creating large catchment basins in the flood-prone areas to absorb the excess water that surely flows each year and utilise same to augment our water supply.

We saw no value in preserving our train lines and changing the locomotives to less expensive units. We fail to understand the need to be able to feed ourselves as we continue to depend on imported food for basic sustenance.

Our public projects are tremendously overpriced and bureaucracy stifles investment and doing business. Our structures of fees and fines are punitive rather than inducements to refrain from lawlessness.

With such a track history, one can only be extremely cautious and apprehensive when one considers that a union that supported what some perceive to be overpriced labour and over-staffing at a company is now the owner and operator of the same company.

The DPTT wishes the new company all the success as PET’s success will indirectly be TT’s success. We are however not as optimistic as one ought to be simply because we do not have a history of strong, efficient business practices on the international stage. We encourage our patriots to lend support to this noble initiative as we continue to chart a way forward for our fledgling nation.

STEVE ALVAREZ

political leader, DPTT

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