Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley would not rush to sign sale and purchase agreement with Patriotic Energies and Technologies before the general election if it is not in the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Prime Minister said he would love to be popular but popularity in the job of Prime Minister can sometimes be a dangerous attribute.
Speaking four days before the election at a virtual meeting in Tunapuna, the Prime Minister said: “There are issues with the refinery still. But the refinery is out of the equation now and if someone wants to put it back in business, we will assist with that but we are not committed at any cost. It has to be that it makes sense and it has to be that must be in the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
“And we not going to do it because it is election. We are not doing that for election. These decisions cannot be make for election. They are decisions to be made for the better service of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. And under this PNM (People’s national Movement) Government they (the decisions) don’t carry an election date,” the Prime Minister stated. Ancel Roget has been calling the agreement to be signed before the election.
The Prime Minister said there was always an alternative and referred to the statement of UNC (United National Congress) candidate David Nakhid who made a statement in 2013 about the People’s Partnership not being able to lead the country out of a wet paper bag. The Prime Minister said Nakhid had come to the PNM first and was “turned down by the PNM”.
The Prime Minister said he could have been the most popular prime minister with the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union if he had agreed to their proposal. He said the OWTU wanted to postpone the treatment of the Petrotrin problem for two years and that decision was put up in 2018. “Two years from that, is 2020,” he said. He said OWTU’s thinking was if the Government agreed to this, it meant that it would be about now that we would be faced with dealing with Petrotrin. And of course the understanding is that no government in an election would have restructured Petrotrin.
The Prime Minister said the Government didn’t have the luxury of “putting itself in that mousetrap” even if it wanted to because Petrotrin’s debt was due in August 2019. “And it required a government that was not afraid of the fall out of fixing that problem to have done what had to be done in 2019,” he said.
He said Government restructured Petrotrin and the outcome is that Heritage is making a profit, servicing its debt, and paying taxes and still employing 100s of employees.
He said while Government’s action was not popular at the time, he said sure that some day in the future some people would say: “That was the day when the Ministry of Finance saved the country.”