Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 16th 2017 Contents news A11
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more than it owes
Although Petrotrin owes the Government
$1.2 billion in taxes, the company contribut-
ed $16.4 billion to the economy between 2011
Citing these figures from the T&T Extractive In-
dustries Transparency Initiative (TTEITI) report
for 2014 and 2015, Oilfields Workers' Trade Union
(OWTU) president general Ancel Roget accused
Finance Minister Colm Imbert of misleading the
country into thinking Petrotrin is a basket case.
Speaking at the union's public policy forum
on the TTEITI report on Tuesday, Roget said
that perception made it easier for citizens to
think privatisation of the country's largest
state company is a viable option.
He blamed political interference by
the current and previous governments,
coupled with mismanagement for the
problems affecting the company.
Roget reminded Imbert that it was
a former PNM government that en-
gaged in the failed gas to liquid plants
on which US$400 million was spent.
"He will lament the fact that Petro-
trin owes some $1.2 billion in taxes to the
Government and that is true but what he
will not say is that for the same years over
which Petrotrin had accrued that tax debt
to the Government, Petrotrin would have
been making significant contributions to
the national economy," he said.
"I want to clear the air on these issues, showing
the potential that Petrotrin has despite the fact that
it has been and continues to be mismanaged on the
basis of political interference."
According to Roget, the minister is giving the
impression that Petrotrin didn't pay anything
at all and owes $1.2 billion in taxes.
During the session, which was attended
by secondary schools students from San
Fernando as well as union members, Ro-
get explained that state-owned means
that it belongs to the people of T&T.
He warned that if the people allow
Petrotrin to be sold, profits will go to
private investors instead of contrib-
uting to the country's development.
In Parliament last week, Imbert
said $4.2 billion in deferred tax assets
was not shown in Petrotrin's accounts
and this could result in the company
recording an audited loss of $4.5 bil-
lion for 2016 rather than the previously
stated $600 million.
Roget said Imbert failed to tell the
country that during that time, Gov-
ernment had racked up a $7 billion
debt at Petrotrin from unpaid sub-
Through the petroleum fuel subsidy,
Petrotrin sells its product at a price lower
than the international selling price to NP
and Unipet. They in turn sell it at the pump
at a cheaper price. Exploration and production
companies then pay their share of the subsidy
to the Government through the Petroleum Levy.
Government reimburses Petrotrin for the differ-
ence between the international selling price and
the local price.
According to the TTEITI report, oil production
in 2015 was 27.3 million barrels compared with
27.5 million in 2014. Average crude oil produc-
tion dropped from 81,262 barrels a day in 2014 to
78,656 in 2015 and gas production fell from 4,071
million standard cubic feet per day in 2015 to 3,833
million in 2015.
In 2015, Government collected $14.5 billion in
energy revenue compared with $28 billion in 2014.
Former ministers divided
Differing views on
As a committee appointed by Prime Minis-
ter Dr Keith Rowley to review Petrotrin gets
down to work, former ministers of energy are
divided on whether the committee is really
Conrad Enill, a former People's National Move-
ment (PNM) minister, says members of the com-
mittee have sufficient expertise to bring balanced
deliberations to the Petrotrin issue. However, Kevin
Ramnarine is questioning the motives behind estab-
lishment of the committee and sees it as an admission
that Government has lost faith in the board of Petrotrin.
Enill described the decision to set up the committee
as a step in the right direction since Petrotrin has more
than 5,000 employees.
"That is 5,000 families you talking about," he said.
The former energy minister is of the view that the
work of the committee is now more critical given
the latest Central Bank report which indicates that
Finance Minister Colm Imbert will receive 20 per
cent less than he budgeted for.
He said that will affect his ability to run the
country, so a decision has to be made about how
to make Petrotrin more profitable or how it can
begin operating under a better business model.
Enill said many years ago a review was done
in which the state owned energy company was
compared to other companies of a similar type.
"One of the things we found is that the production
to employee ratio is out of kilt and therefore even when
you went out into the international market and tried
to attract some company to come to joint venture with you,
they said no, no, no, no , the cost is just too high. You need to
bring that cost down or else we cannot make it work," he said.
He said the challenge is to find a business model that will
allow the company to make some profit. Once a balance can
be found between revenue and expenditure, Petrotrin can
become profitable, he said.
Enill is concerned, however, that this is where the biggest
contention is going to be.
Ramnarine, on the other hand, sees the committee
as "just another talk shop."
"Everybody knows what needs to be done at Petro-
trin and the board is comprised of reasonable and
intelligent people," he said.
"From day one the board outlined the challenges
facing the company, so there is no need for more
analysis and talk. There is no need for a committee
but this Government is suffering from analysis
Ramnarine wonders whether the committee
can deliver what the board of Petrotrin could not
deliver in 18 months.
He also questioned the appointment of perma-
nent secretary in the Ministry of Energy Selwyn
Lashley as chairman of the committee. He said
Lashley is due to retire this month.
Other members of the committee are Profes-
sor Chandrabhan Sharma, of the Department
of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UWI;
former independent senator Helen Drayton;
Robert Riley, Head of Safety and Operational
Risk, Competency and Capability Development
at the BP Group in London and former chairman
and CEO of bpTT. The two representatives of the
OWTU are Gregory Marchan and David Abdulah.
When the committee meets it will decide on an
agenda and process of work.
OWTU president general Ancel Roget said the union
wants to ensure that Petrotrin is re-organised, produces
more oil, operates efficiently, is sustainable and main-
tains jobs for oil workers while cutting out political inter-
ference. He blames Petrotrin's current financial situation on
Roget said the company is top heavy because of political
appointees who are not adding value.
Petrotrin said in an emailed response to questions from the
T&T Guardian that it welcomes the opportunity to support
the work of the committee.
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