Saturday Express Editorial

THE stage seems set for Petrotrin to occupy a prominent part of the long elections season now before us.

In what she took to be a signal that things were not progressing as positively as were expected, with the four successor companies which have taken over the State-operations previously under the Petrotrin umbrella, on Monday the Opposition Leader read with gusto from a leaked letter to the Energy Minister.

This letter came from chairman of Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd, (TPHL) Wilfred Espinet.

Dated June 7, one of its major points of concern was a projected shortage of fuel, based on what he said was “an ongoing shortfall of US$20 million” to purchase refined fuels to ensure supply to the country.

And while the letter reported on gains made toward a seamless turnaround from Petrotrin, which had been in deep debt and was financially strapped, Mr Espinet pointed nevertheless to “key immediate risks” which required urgent attention.

Responding to this on a political platform in Fyzabad, the Opposition Leader revealed her party’s intentions on turning things around, should they return to government after next year’s scheduled general election. She promised to “recommence Petrotrin” and to undo all that has been seen as the painful measures which were taken in the closing down of those operations. These include the retrenchment of some 5,000 workers, and the slump in economic activity among the communities in which they reside.

But in his response, the Energy Minister said the US$20 million shortfall had been rectified, with the company being able to access such funds through the Central Bank. He said also that TPHL will have to rely on one of its sister companies, Paria Fuel Trading, for the foreign exchange needed for its monthly payments.

Further, the TPHL chairman in his letter to the minister also pointed to the brighter side of the board, saying that, inter-alia, gains had been made in the turnaround. And by the time his letter became public this week, there was also good news that some of his demands had been met, and that Heritage was drilling for oil and making money, Paria Fuel was making profit by supplying fuel locally and regionally, that Guaracara Refining is receiving and reviewing offers for the re-opening of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery.

The Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union and the Movement for Social Justice notwithstanding, also appear by current observations, to be readying themselves to use the Petrotrin change-over as part of their own anti-Government narratives during the coming election campaign.

But what remains clear to this point, is that Mr Espinet’s letter must now been seen as a force for good, laying out the challenges as he saw them, as well as the signs of positive outcomes going forward.

The population has been well served from the public discourse initiated by the leaking of it. What must follow now is the decisive action which should ensue, based on the imperatives as laid out in its wake.

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