MOVEMENT for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah on Sunday questioned whether "the controllers of economic and political power" in Trinidad and Tobago were afraid of the OWTU-owned Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Ltd acquiring the former Petrotrin refinery.
Abdulah also questioned whether Finance Minister Colm Imbert was upfront concerning all details regarding Patriotic's bid for the refinery and whether returning to the open market to find new bidders for the refinery would be successful.
At a news conference at the MSJ's San Fernando office, Abdulah asked, "Who is afraid of Patriotic having the refinery? He claimed there were people inside and outside of TT "including the Opposition" who were "deathly scared" of Patriotic acquiring the refinery. He described the UNC as "very anti-Patriotic and engaged in false narratives about Patriotic and Venezuela."
Abdulah asked, "Is it that the controllers of economic power in this country, don't want to have a company owned by a union, which has also pledged to sell shares to credit unions and other people's institutions afterwards?"
He wondered whether these unnamed entities "feel they must be the only controllers in this country." Asked if he believed Patriotic were misled into acquiring the refinery, Abdulah replied that Imbert should have known the implications of not refinancing a US$850 million bond that was due in August 2019.
"If he is not aware, then he is negligent." Abdulah claimed this issue was central to the closure of Petrotrin and if Imbert did not know how the bond was to be refinanced, it could be a dereliction of his duty "and he should have resigned."
Abdulah agreed with Patriotic's request to Imbert for an urgent meeting to find a way to allow its bid to acquire the refinery to proceed. "There ought to have been a meeting." Noting differing views between Imbert and Patriotic about tax credits, Abdulah said he could not advise Patriotic on its next step, if Imbert rejects its request for a meeting.
On Government's plan to return to the open market to see if there are any other interested bidders for the refinery, Abdulah said, "The likelihood of getting any new buyer on the open market is very slim." He claimed," The terms and conditions are quite likely to be much worse than what is on the table now (from Patriotic)."
He recalled that a search was made the open market for the refinery in 2019 which dropped to shortlist of three companies (including Patriotic)."At that time, US private equity firm Beowulf Energy and German refiner and trader Klesch were the other bidders short-listed for the refinery. Beowulf offered a US$42,000 monthly lease over a 15-year term while Klesch’s proposal indicated the only payment to Government would be through taxes.
Abdulah accused the PNM of being "guilty of a number of economic crimes against the people of TT. But he added he UNC was equally culpable for those crimes, when it was in power from 2010 to 2015.