THE Prime Minister was lifted in prayers by Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee, who wished him a speedy recovery – but also pounded him for his failed leadership and the decimation of the energy sector.
On a virtual platform on Monday night as the United National Congress (UNC) continued its by-election campaign, Lee said over the past five years, the People’s National Movement (PNM) government berated the Opposition, laughed at it and accused it of knowing nothing about energy.
“Who is laughing now?” he asked as he pointed to the “collapse” of the sector, owing to the 30,000 jobs reportedly at stake, and the downgrade of the National Gas Company (NGC) by Caribbean Information and Credit Rating Services Ltd (CariCris), while it suffered its first loss in its 45-year history and has the burden of supplying gas for Atlantic LNG Train 1 now that BPTT has pulled out.
Lee said this NGC /LNG arrangement is the blueprint for catastrophe, chaos and crisis in the downstream.
He said it is frightening, three months after Finance Minister Colm Imbert said in his budget presentation this would be the year of “resetting the economy for growth and innovation,” that the backbone industry of this country is in significant uncertainty.
“We might have begun a new year, but the failures, mismanagement, incompetence and total absence of vision by this PNM Government has remained the same.
“Today, while many nations around the world begin the new year trying to ease their economies out of the crisis caused by covid19, we in Trinidad and Tobago are faced with the catastrophe of a broken, brutalised and torn-apart energy sector due to this Rowley Government.
“In the first two weeks of a new year, over 30,000 jobs are at stake as the crisis at Point Lisas intensifies. After they broke Petrotrin, the Point Lisas industrial estate now exists in shattered pieces all due to the mismanagement and misleading agenda of Keith Rowley, Stuart Young and Franklin Khan."
He said for the past five years Khan has thrown jabs at the Opposition "when the facts show clearly today that he as Minister of Energy has failed miserably.”
Young and Rowley's renegotiation of gas prices in Houston, he charged, is responsible for the exodus of petrochemical companies which cited high and unprofitable gas prices.
“In the past five years, Arcelor Mittal, Industrial Plant Services Ltd, Yara, Methanol Holdings, Methanex Titan and Nutrien have all closed plants, sending home hundreds of workers. “
Lee said the country is facing one of its biggest gas shortages, despite promises to expand gas exploration with proper incentives.
H said government failed to put contingency plans in place, when as far back as 2019, BP began issuing statements on the possible gas supply challenges it would face with Train 1 owing to disappointing results from its infill drilling programme.
“The final nail is being placed in the coffin of our energy sector, now that BP has said it will not be providing gas for Train 1.”
He said supplying gas to LNG is the equivalent of supplying five more plants, and wondered about the outcome if NGC is already struggling to provide gas to all the downstreamers.
“Will the NGC have to reduce gas supply to the other downstreamers, or is this just a gimmick to slow the eventual closure of Train 1?”
Any further shortage caused by the NGC redirecting gas to Train 1 will cause a massive economic fallout, he said.
Recently five CEOs representing 24 petrochemical plants wrote to Khan about the implications for the downstream sector, which provides 30,000 jobs, hundreds of millions in revenue and over 25 per cent of foreign exchange.
Lee also called on Rowley to say if the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery will be awarded to the OWTU's Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Ltd. He said this once valuable asset and foreign- exchange earner is being transformed into a scrap-metal heap, losing value each day.
“It is time this the Government listen to the President’s New Year message when she said public officials have to stop being so secretive.”