FORMER trade minister Vasant Bharath said someone must cough up some US$500 million to virtually subsidise any sale of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery to Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Ltd.
He spoke to Newsday on Wednesday about Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s recent claim that the refinery can’t be sold if under mortgage and/or lien.
The concern was denied at the Prime Minister’s briefing on Wednesday at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the lien could simply be transferred onto other assets and so disencumber the refinery.
Bharath said before Patriotic could buy the plant for US$700 million, a US$1.2 billion mortgage/lien must be paid off.
“Who will make up the US$500 million difference? Will it be the taxpayers?”
Bharath said Persad-Bissessar had raised a valid point, which Dr Rowley had in turn tried to dismiss as scaremongering.
“But it is a valid question,” Bharath said. “But she should have continued by asking who will foot the US$500 million bill.”
He said Persad-Bissessar had been "a little bit wrong" in her remarks about TT’s banks, as assessed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a report posted on the Central Bank website last month. Bharath said the IMF’s view on the exposure of banks was based simply on the hypothetical question of whether a run could occur on their investments and their sovereign risk, the latter being their loans to governments.
“There is not likely to be any run on the bank. The banks are very secure. The IMF alluded to a worst-case scenario, talking of a run on their investments.”
Bharath said bank exposure was due to the covid19 pandemic, which has "generated a great deal of uncertainty." He reiterated that the report contemplated a run on investment such as US-based stocks and shares, rather than a run on TT’s banks.
Former agriculture minister Devant Maharaj was very unimpressed with Persad-Bissessar’s remarks at the UNC Monday night virtual meeting, saying she "continues to be an embarrassment to the party" on the heels of the faux pas of her plagiarised congratulatory note to US President Joe Biden.
“Without Kevin Ramnarine and Vasant Bharath, the UNC is bereft of any intellectual rigour to analyse things. She has shown she is incapable of carrying the party any further.”
Maharaj said Persad-Bissessar was trying to resurrect the Petrotrin issue, which voters had recently dismissed at the general election polls.
Bharath and Maharaj both plan to challenge Persad-Bissessar for UNC leadership at the party's upcoming internal election.