Express Editorial : Daily

THE assurance by Finance Minister Colm Imbert that he intends to intervene in the current impasse between State-owned Paria and Unipet should be welcome news to a public that may be fearful of becoming a pawn in a high stakes negotiation between both sides.

We note the minister’s insistence that the impasse is an issue of “non-payment for fuel supplied” to the value of $100 million and of “non-signatory of an agreement which has been in force for several months”.

We now await Unipet’s response to both charges.

The little information that has come from Unipet to date is a statement yesterday that it was committed to a speedy resolution and others made during the recent shutdown of Unipet stations regarding its plea for a change in the pricing regime to allow for greater financial viability of its business.

The pile-up of debt, one assumes, is part of that story.

Notwithstanding his intention to intervene, Minister Imbert was vehement in saying that the Government must ensure that anybody who is supplied with fuel paid for by taxpayers’ money pays their bills and does so on time.

A public long accustomed to the humongous bills which State enterprises are allowed to run up in state-to-state transactions might take this position with more than a grain of salt.

It would be interesting to know, for example, whether NP pays its bills to Paria and does so on time.

Still, one could hardly argue with the position that bills should be paid and within an agreed time.

However, this impasse raises issues that go well beyond that of payment.

A core question here is the level of commitment by the government to the demonopolisation of the gas station industry.

If the privately-owned Unipet stations are considered strategically important to the supply equation, the State must embrace its role, as Minister Imbert has indicated he will, as a manager in any situation that could affect the public and national interest.

In this particular case, there is the risk of Unipet going under with negative consequences for the public given that Paria is a monopoly and therefore the only source of Unipet’s fuel supplies.

Despite the many exhortations to the government to allow State enterprises the room to make decisions in their own interests, it would be surprising if the ministries of Energy and Finance have not been deeply involved in this issue and were not alerted to Paria’s intentions.

How much hardball is the government prepared to support, and to what end, are questions to be answered.

For example, is the government supportive of a return to a monopoly in the petroleum dealers’ market?

If not, what are its conditions for throwing Unipet a lifeline?

These are questions not only for the government but for the wider public, including those who patronise Unipet stations in locations where NP has no presence and who see great value in a privately-owned element to the petroleum dealership sector dominated by the State.

The issues arising from this impasse go well beyond a $100 million debt and need to be taken into account in moving it towards a resolution.


The Government must be commended for its proactive response to the coronavirus which has already claimed 18 lives and infected hundreds in China while spreading to Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States.

I read with interest and great concern a report in the daily newspapers on Tuesday, under the caption, “T&T backs B’dos, blanks Pompeo’s meeting”. The commentary of the Honourable Rodney Charles, who is widely quoted, lacks substance and is dangerously ill-­informed.

A news of the horrific murder of a doctor in San Fernando rocked the nation recently, two towering intellectuals from the highly respected University of Facebook, Shonda Bigrat and Crayon Clingflim, decided to share their respective research on the causes and solutions to crime.

Within the framework of the proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly of January 24, 2020, as International Day of Education, we wish in this statement to air concerns about the poor educational performance of children of African origin in Trinidad and Tobago, and, relatedly, about the poor quality of schools in predominantly black locales in the country.

St Lucia observes an annual Nobel Laureate Festival in honour of its two Nobel Laureates—Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott. Their birth dates, respectively, are on January 23, 1915, and January 23, 1930. This year, the 27th festival began on January 10 and will continue until ­February 6.

The chamber spoke out this week as the nation grapples with the crime situation, defining it as a “crisis” for which we do not have “the luxury of time”, and advanced possible solutions. This intervention followed on the heels of an editorial that pointedly questioned whether Afro-Trinidadians had “the innate desire for a better life”.