THE BLAME game being played by politicians over who is responsible for ongoing energy sector problems is a waste of valuable time – especially now, when our country’s focus in that area should be on conversion to clean energy, diversification of the economy and bolstering transparency in public life.
The rapprochement in Parliament last Friday, on sexual offences legislation, was short-lived. Over the last few days, government and opposition members have exchanged barbs over losses recorded by the National Gas Company. Minister of Energy Stuart Young said a “disaster of a deal” had been struck back in 2015 by a UNC government.
However, the Opposition said the problem was not what occurred in 2015, but rather 2017, when the current Government renegotiated it.
Some days earlier, politicians also squabbled over another energy matter, this time questions surrounding the now-defunct Petrotrin oil refinery and disturbing “fake oil” claims against a dismissed operator, A&V Oil.
Some suggested the outcome of arbitration proceedings raised questions about the judgment of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who had highlighted several audit reports on a platform, including reports done by the State. Others raised questions over the management of the secret arbitration proceedings by the Government.
In Parliament on Friday, the Prime Minister distanced himself from the issue, saying it was entirely a matter for the Petrotrin board, not the Executive.
Citizens are no closer to the truth, despite all of the sound and fury. To date, there have been no real answers over concerns that claims made to Petrotrin had been wrongly inflated or that the State somehow acted recklessly. And because nobody has seen any of the deals made in relation to NGC – whether in 2015 or 2017 – who is to say which side is correct?
Instead of bolstering transparency, politicians have, through tit-for-tat exchanges and the selective release of information, done the opposite.
Additionally, governments have allowed practices such as the use of confidentiality clauses, non-disclosure agreements and secret arbitration to flourish in the hugely important energy sector – all the while drawing on public money and resources to keep projects, entities and facilities afloat.
Even Dr Rowley, in opening a controversial gas-to-liquids plant in Pointe-a-Pierre earlier this year, acknowledged its “long, tumultuous” history, straddling governments and Petrotrin boards. That history involved yet another secret arbitration which was won by Petrotrin.
The gas-to-liquids plant was supposed to result in $2 billion in revenue for the treasury, but an explosion in April rocked the plant. No findings in relation to that explosion have yet been released.
Meanwhile, not enough is being said about any plans to boost green energy and to wean the country off fossil-fuel dependency, as if what is happening in the energy sector all over the planet does not apply to this country. Like much else in the state energy sector these days, those essential plans, assuming they exist, are under wraps.