President of the TT Scrap Iron Dealers Association (TTSIDA) Allan Ferguson has called on the Prime Minister to meet his members to discuss the sale of scrap metals from Heritage Petroleum.
At a press conference at Signature Hall at Longdenville, Chaguanas, on Monday, Ferguson said officials from the state-owned company and the Ministry of Trade and Industry previously endorsed a project proposal from the association.
But then a betrayal began "all of a sudden" on September 12, when Heritage Petroleum put out an advertisement inviting the public to bid for the sale of scrap metals, he said.
If Dr Keith Rowley or government representatives don't intervene, Ferguson said, the association would have to petition the court to stop the bidding, which is open to international bidders.
Ferguson said, "Please, Mr Prime Minister, get involved. I think you do not know what is going on, so it is important that we talk to you."
He estimated that TT stands to gain over US$100 million, using TTSIDA’s project, within three years.
"We are the best people for the job. We have the experience to know what we can do to get more value for the materials. The Government would gain, not local, but US dollars. We agreed we would have given 25 per cent (of the sales) to the Government," Ferguson said. "The Government will not get half a million TT dollars using the bidding process. I guarantee that we will get more than US$100 million."
The association invested a significant amount of time and money towards the project, he said. It also proposed buying new machinery to help process and sell materials at an increased value.
When Petrotrin closed in 2018, association members were adversely affected, considering they used to buy more than 60 per cent of the materials, Ferguson said.
"We are still suffering in silence, because we know we have to put some project in place to be able to move along in this industry."
TTSIDA has over 135 members, who have mainly small and medium-sized businesses.
Ferguson said often ex-prisoners are unable to get jobs, owing to their criminal records, but: "We talk to them and tell them that crime is not the way to go. We school and mould them and bring them back into society. What are we going to tell them? We are not supporting crime."
He alleged there was nepotism in the bidding process, saying the association cannot allow the project "to go into one person’s hands."
The project manager, Anthony Rampersad, also appealed for Heritage Petroleum and the Ministry of Trade and Industry to reconsider their decision.
The original plan assured that the association would have seamlessly executed a project to process and sell scrap iron, he said, and the association got oral and written assurances from the relevant authorities, he said.
Rampersad estimated that TTSIDA’s project could lead to over 3,300 jobs, removing potential pollutants from the environment and the influx of much-needed foreign exchange into the economy.
Failure to reconsider the arrangement could lead to the loss of potential jobs for at-risk people who have already established efficient networks with the association's members, he argued.
"The industry has not remained unscathed from the repercussions of the covid19 pandemic. Production has slowed to a halt worldwide, and as a result, the raw materials necessary for the trade to flourish is not readily available, " Rampersad said.
Association members, he emphasised, need the project to ensure industry stays sustainable.
The advertisement saysthe company has begun disposing of all scrap metals on an "as is, where is basis" from its various locations as part of an environmentally-friendly initiative.
The deadline for the receipt of sealed bids is October 9 at 4 pm.
Newsday contacted officials at Heritage Petroleum for comment, but up to 5.30 pm, no response was forthcoming.