Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 10th 2016 Contents A7
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"I unreservedly apologise to all."
That apology came yesterday from
Finance Minister Colm Imbert following
his recent controversial statements on
"wage restraint" and "no riots yet" he
made at last week's conference with
visiting International Money Fund (IMF)
Imbert's apology was made in Par-
liament as he piloted a motion to confirm
tax orders in the 2017 budget. It also
follows a demand for an apology from
the trade union leaders and a public
dress-down from Prime Minister Keith
Rowley at last week's post-Cabinet press
He publicly scolded Imbert, making
it clear he was not happy with the man
who acts as Prime Minister when he is
out of the country.
He likened the manner in which the
Finance Minister made the disclosures
to a doctor with no bedside manners.
The Finance Minister broke off from
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was presented
with a plan by ]the Oilfields Workers Trade Union
(OWTU) to restructure State-owned Petroleum
Company of T&T (Petrotrin) to make it more
Imbert sorry for offensive remarks
speaking on the motion to address
the issue of his remarks which had
dogged him since it occurred last
Imbert has been centre-stage of
protests from unions and other sec-
tors following his remarks at the
IMF meeting where he alluded to
"wage restraint" and a "0-0-0"
position by Government concerning
public sector negotiations.
He also drew fire for quipping
he had increased fuel prices twice
and since no one had "rioted yet"
he might raise it again next April.
He denied he had said "wage
freeze" and clarified that the "0-
0-0" was the start-up basis for
negotiations, not the end.
Rowley also attempted to deflect
public anger, saying Imbert's state-
ment was speculative, lacked sub-
stance and was made in a "vacu-
um." He signalled no final decision
was made on wages and even if
"less" was available, there would
be "something to be had."
Joint Trade Union Movement
president Ancel Roget subsequently
demanded that Imbert apologise
to the National Tripartite Advisory
Council for his "disrespectful and
Yesterday Imbert informed the
Parliament: "There was a confer-
ence in T&T last week designed to
deal with challenges facing T&T
and the economies of the Caribbean
and during that conference I made
certain statements and on reflection
and having reviewed and looked at
the tapes of the comments I made,
and the manner in which I made
them, I realise this would have upset
a lot of people and therefore I take
this opportunity to unreservedly
apologise to all of them."
His apology was interrupted
twice by loud laughter from the
Rowley was absent for Imbert's
apology. Around that same time
Rowley was meeting with members
of Oilfields Workers' Trade Union
at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert speaks during the sitting of Parliament
yesterday. At left is Stuart Young, Minister in the Ministry of the
Attorney General and Legal Affairs and Minister in the Office of the
Prime Minister. PHOTO:MARCUS GONZALES
NEW FISCAL MEASURES
On the tax order motion, Imbert said the tax on people and companies
earning $1 million was similar to measures by the US Obama administration.
He said the tax on high income earners would yield $80 million and that
showed how many high income earners TT had. The projected yield from
"million dollar" earning companies is $560 million
He said $750 million was also raised from the recent tax amnesty which
showed "quite a few don't pay taxes."
Imbert said $1 million was collected in the first ten days of the seven per
cent online tax. This applies to goods bought for personal use via the Internet
and brought to T&T via air freight. It's projected to yield $70 million.
Imbert said he was examining complaints from Carib Brewery about unfair
competition and importers of foreign beer "dumping" products in T&T.
Cabinet would also decide on representation by the T&T Chamber and
hospitality industry for waiver of proposed alcohol tax on litre-boxed wine until
after New Year's since stocks had been enroute when the tax was announced
on September 30, he said.
So said OWTU president-general Ancel Roget,
who led a union team in a two-hour meeting with
Rowley, recently appointed Energy Minister Franklin
Khan and Labour Minister Jenifer Baptiste-Primus
at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's. The meeting
was held on the request of Rowley.
Speaking with reporters following the meeting,
Roget said the plan was part of the overall proposal
to establish a new system of the company.
He said the OWTU delegation presented a new
governance model which would help the company
become more profitable. He said Petrotrin was too
critical to the economy of T&T to allow it to continue
the way in which it was going.
"We did say to the Prime Minister that there are
certain top managers in the company's management
who we feel were just not up to speed," he added.
He said the plan called for the company to be
restructured "into manageable divisions... so you
would have an exploration and production division,
a Trinmar operation and the refinery division with
each division having a level of autonomy and
authority to effect the type of operational efficiency
to see the company go forward."
He said under the existing arrangements "you
cannot find your way through (and) there is no
accountability. That is not how an efficient company
operates." Roget said there was also the need to
have "competent people in place and a governance
model to allow for the company to effect the type
of leadership that is absolutely necessary and crucial
to take the company out of the morass within which
it finds itself."
PM gets OWTU plan to save Petrotrin
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