If T&T is smiling today it is only because of Kevin Ramnarine, the former Energy Minister in the Kamla Persad Bissessar-led PP Government of 2010-15. The foresight of Minister Ramnarine to provide incentives to gas exploration companies has now borne fruits which Franklyn Khan, the Energy Minister, is now crowing about.
Only recently, at the launch of its local government campaign in Siparia, Prime Minister Rowley lambasted the former government for giving too much tax incentives to gas exploration companies and boasted that his government has revisited those packages. It appears that the PNM Government prefers the gas to remain in the deep waters to be of no benefit to anyone instead of providing fiscal incentives so that down streams plants like YARA can be assured of a regular supply of natural gas.
While the Minister of Energy justifies the closure of the YARA ammonia plant at Savonetta by arguing that the machinery is old and its fuel efficiency is poor, the fact remains that there was an unreliable supply of energy for NGC to negotiate with the downstream plants at Point Lisas. Had the PP in office, its Minister of Energy would have renegotiated that pricing of natural gas to give a company like YARA the confidence to keep its plant running.
The depleting reservoir of natural gas and the threat of removing tax incentives for exploration by the government, all combined to give reasons for YARA to take a quick and safe exit. It is not YARA that has suffered loses; it is the people of Trinidad and Tobago and more directly, the workers and their dependents.
The closure of YARA is similar to the closure of MITTAL STEEL. MITTAL requested meetings with the Minister of Labour to renegotiate the pricing of electricity but to no avail. The Company was hopeful that a reduction of the cost of electricity would give them room to meet other overheads and keep the plant in operation with all employees on board. Mittal’s application to meet with the Minister of Labour went unacknowledged. Its only option was to shut down the company.
I want to congratulate the government for acknowledging the business acumen of the OWTU and more so, its astute President General, Ancil Roget, a human being with a Warren Buffet-business head. I hate to listen to the charge that the OWTU does not have the experience to run a parlour! I want to agree with Dr Keith Rowley that the best minds can be hired in a company and I guess this would be the HR policy of this Roget-led company.
I am hopeful that this sense of confidence in the OWTU would be extended to other groups. It is not too late for the government to offer a similar arrangement with the All Trinidad Sugar Union to revive the sugar industry by giving them access to the St Madeline Sugar Factory. If Roget can be trusted with an oil refinery then Nirvan Maharaj, a lawyer and President of All Trinidad can be trusted to make a success of the former St Madeline mill. I remain hopeful that Dr Keith Rowley would extend this olive branch to the All Trinidad Union.