Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 28th 2016 Contents A5
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Minister of Finance Colm Imbert
yesterday knocked the T&T Petro-
leum Dealers Association (TTPDA)
for a decision to take cash only at
gas stations across the country, say-
ing it had the potential to create a
situation where all Government
vehicles, including from the pro-
tective arms of the country, could
have been grounded.
"I certainly think that it was a
very unwise move on the part of the
dealers because they knew exactly
what they were doing and that this
would affect the Government's fleet,
not just the public," Imbert said dur-
ing the yesterday's weekly post-Cab-
inet briefing at the Office of the
Prime Minister,St Clair.
On Tuesday, TTPDA president,
Robin Narayansingh, via a release,
had said that from today (gas stations
would no longer be able to accept
electronic card payments for fuel
purchases due to the costs associated
with this facility.
But in a bid to prevent a crisis sit-
uation, Imbert said yesterday he
immediately gave instructions to
National Petroleum (NP) to have all
its 47 stations continue to take credit
and debit cards.
"As Minister of Finance I will not
allow that because the card is issued
by the Ministry of Finance and there
is an agreement with respect to the
use of the cards," Imbert said.
He, however, assured that all, Gov-
ernment and the public, were to ben-
efit from the order.
"It would apply to everybody. It
would not be discrimination to the
general public and to have the Gov-
ernment fleet alone. It would be
unworkable and a tremendous incon-
venience," he said.
The TTPDA had argued that it
made the decision because while the
cost of operating a gas station had
gone up exponentially, the retail mar-
gin, which should facilitate fair oper-
ational costs, remained fixed.
In addressing that concern, Imbert
said as a responsible Government
they were looking at that issue but
said it needed careful review.
He said Green Fund and the Busi-
ness Levy, which the TTPDA com-
plained about, was a "tax on the
gross sales so it has nothing to do
with whether you make a profit or
"So they are complaining that the
increases in the Business Levy will
cause them to go bankrupt but I am
not sure I can accept an argument
like that just on the face of it because
why run a business that is contin-
uously losing money?
"Why are you in business to lose
money? It doesn't really make any
sense but as a responsible Govern-
ment we listened.
"I have heard what they have to
say and we are going to take a very
clinical look at the traditional or typ-
ical expenses of a gas station operator,
look at their income, look at their
expenditure and see whether there
is any merit whatsoever in increasing
"But I certainly not going to have
a knee jerk reaction to just jump up
and increase the profit margin for
gas stations," Imbert added.
Noting that Unipet is continuing
to take card payments, he said Gov-
ernment would also be looking at
the terms of the licences to see if
gas stations were allowed to scrap
the Government's credit card system
Questioned about concerns that
gas stations taking in cash only could
encourage money laundering, Imbert
responded: "We had not looked at
that but obviously it is something
that I would want the ministry to
Imbert also said he found it strange
the dealers would take a step where
they would be required to have huge
amounts of cash at their business-
"It would increase their own secu-
rity requirements. I found it strange
that they would actually do some-
thing like this but that's their com-
mercial decision," he said.
Contacted last evening, Narayans-
ingh said he would like a meeting
with Imbert on the issue.
"What would he like us to do in
the stage of rising costs that is asso-
ciated with the acceptance of credit
cards? What would be his sugges-
tions?" he asked.
(SEE PAGE A17)
Moves by gas station operators to
accept cash from customers over elec-
tronic payments will make them sitting
ducks to the criminal elements, president
of the Petroleum Dealers Association
of T&T Robindranath Naraynsingh said
"When you stop to think about the
totality of things it is not a big difference.
That is what the Government has exposed
the dealers to," Naraynsingh said of the
move taken by members to reduce oper-
"We have become sitting ducks for
criminals now with the measures we have
imposed. When we look at what is hap-
pening we are at the mercy of the Gov-
ernment. The Government has to take
us out of this position that we have found
ourselves in," he added.
He explained that only 20 per cent of
the country's 170 gas stations accepted
cards at the moment and of that 170,
only 40 operate convenient stores that
make a higher profit margin than the
He said while many operators have
private security to protect customers and
workers, those officers were not precept-
"We are hoping that the Police Service
would give us protection with more cash
available at our stores but there is only
so much we can do," Naraynsingh added.
He said following Government's impo-
sition of a 15 per cent increase in the price
of diesel last month, they were left with
no choice but to take the current meas-
"Every time the consumers swipe their
card at a gas station the merchant pays
three per cent, while our profit margin
is four per cent. We have always been
there for the public but with the increase
in prices and taxes, how could we continue
to pay our mortgages, workers and bills?
We are barely keeping afloat. We had to
take action to cut our costs," he added.
Minister of Finance Colm Imbert and Minister in
the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young have
insisted that the report of the Central Audit Com-
mittee into the disbanded LifeSport programme was
not quashed by the High Court.
In her ruling on Monday, Justice Mira Dean-Armorer
said the report had breached the principles of natural
justice as the subjects of the probe were not given an
opportunity to be heard by the committee before the
report was laid in Parliament in 2014 by the then Peo-
ple's Partnership government.
But speaking at yesterday's post-Cabinet news con-
ference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair,
Imbert said the work of the committee was still alive.
However, he noted that the committee now needed
to ensure the process of natural justice was achieved.
Imbert said Douglas Mendes, SC, was hired to
advance the process and the committee would give
the claimants, including former permanent secretary
in the Sports Ministry, Ashwin Creed, a chance to be
Young said it was "not normal that the report will
be published (laid in Parliament)."
Finance Ministry unit
revisiting LifeSport audit
Imbert knocks gas dealers' poor decision
NP outlets must take ATM cards
Dealers now sitting ducks for criminals
On Wednesday, two years after Irma
Rampersad, her granddaughter,
Shania Amoroso, and family friend,
Felix Martinez, were abducted from
Rampersad's home and murdered in
the Brasso Seco forest, family
members and friends held a
memorial service in their memory at
the house from which they were
abducted at Bieu Road, Brasso Seco,
on October 26, 2014.
In photo, Rampersad's daughters,
Kadeisha Gonzales, left, and Gail
Harford, right, her granddaughter
Amanda Salim, with her baby
Zendaya Paterson and family friend
Carl Hernandez, look at photos of
Rampersad and her granddaughter,
Shania Amoroso, on an altar erected
in the house for the remembrance
service. Two men---Azmon
Alexander and his 17-year-old
cousin---are before the court charged
with the abduction and murder.
PHOTO: ANDRE ALEXANDER
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