Dr Keith Rowley

IN GOOD SPIRITS: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley chairs the virtual Cabinet meeting yesterday from the PM’s residence in Blenheim, Tobago. ­—Photo: Office of the Prime Minister

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who had a CT scan to assess his lung function on Wednesday evening at the Scarborough General Hospital, said he spent seven minutes at the hospital before returning to the PM’s official residence at Blenheim in Tobago.

Rowley, who announced he had tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday, said he had a busy day yesterday, starting with a virtual meeting with Maarten Wetselaar, director, Integrated Gas, Renewables and Energy Solutions at Shell Global, and Eugene Okpere, president and country chair of Shell Trinidad and Tobago.

Also present at the meeting were Minister of Energy Franklin Khan and Minister of National Security Stuart Young.

“It was an important meeting,” said the Prime Minister.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said: “It was a very productive meeting between the two parties who reaffirmed their commitment to work together for the development of the energy sector in Trinidad and Tobago.”

At around 11 a.m., Rowley conducted the virtual Cabinet meeting which went until approximately 2.30 p.m.

The Prime Minister said he continued to receive good wishes from many people.

However, he also conceded, in response to a question, that being in politics, “I am also aware that there are those who would not wish me well as a result of the positions I have taken in the national interest.”

In response to statements by the Opposition UNC, Rowley reiterated that he did not hold any ministerial meetings in the last two weeks before testing positive.

NiQuan explosion

With regard to the explosion at NiQuan Energy’s gas-to-liquids plant at Pointe-a-Pierre on Wednesday, Rowley said the incident at NiQuan did not change the fundamental justification for facilitating the investment in the first place.

The Prime Minister was responding to Opposition criticism, with UNC Chief Whip David Lee describing the “Government’s NiQuan deal as an explosive...and massive failure”.

In a statement yesterday, Lee derisively referred to the Prime Minister’s statement at the plant’s opening ceremony that NiQuan was a “triumph and a resounding success”.

Rowley said in typical UNC fashion of celebrating “bad news”, the party was “crowing” over the explosion at NiQuan and was “fabricating” a narrative that Government “hustled” the opening of the plant.

“But NiQuan is not a Government plant, it is private investment,” he said.

The PM said all that happened was that the company invited Government, specifically the Prime Minister, to the formal opening of the plant.

He said as far as the UNC was concerned, everything in the country should fail because they believed that “failure” would advance their interests.

On Lee’s statement that he (Rowley) had labelled the plant a “resounding success”, the Prime Minister said he stood by that because the plant was a private sector initiative to produce something of value-which is to produce an environmentally-clean (sulphur-free) diesel from gas.

“And, of course, if it succeeds, all of us succeed.”

He said the concept remains a viable business venture.

In 2018, when NiQuan acquired the plant, Petrotrin received a cash payment of US$10 million, with the remaining US$25 million to be paid in preference shares.

Rowley defended the decision to give NiQuan a guaranteed gas supply, saying that its consumption of gas was relatively small.

He said once the diesel is made it is so clean that it is used to blend with other diesel fuels to bring up their quality.

He said every gallon of diesel is sold at a higher price because the diesel is 100 per cent sulphur-free.

“They are hell-bent on spewing out negatives in this country, hoping that if initiatives such as these fail, they could say ‘change the Government’,” said Rowley.

And Energy Minister Khan said the decision to sell Petrotrin’s GTL assets had the approval of the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led former People’s Partnership government.

“The Member for Pointe-a-Pierre is well aware that it was under the People’s Partnership government that the sale was executed and that all terms and conditions, except for the supply of gas, were finalised,” Khan stated. “It is important to note that the entire project was funded by private capital. No State funding or resources were expended for this project. Additionally, no special tax concessions were given to NiQuan.”

Khan added: “The Member for Pointe-a-Pierre’s rhetoric is in keeping with the UNC mantra that ‘Trinidad and Tobago must fail’ for the UNC to succeed. Every project that has the potential to earn the country extra revenue is criticised and condemned by the Opposition, be it the Dragon, Manatee or Sandals. The NiQuan project is no different.”

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