Debate in the Senate
September 11, 2018
Mr. Vice-President, I want to express my thanks and gratitude to you in allowing me to debate this Motion on the decision by the Government to close the Petrotrin refinery without providing the workers and the people of this country with any definite plan of how this decision will be implemented and how the Government intends to counter the necessary adverse consequences.
Mr. Vice-President, when this Government decided to announce the closure of the Petrotrin refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre, for most of the country it was like déjà vu, as it brought the country back to 2003 when exactly what this Government is telling the people who are affected by this decision now, the same mantra was being sung then. They were promising the Caroni workers: “We will give you land. We will build communities for you. We will give you residential plots, agricultural plots, and we will give you a well-organized severance package” in 2003; the same thing that they are telling the Petrotrin workers now.
And as we speak, Mr. Vice-President, déjà vu—as we speak—in 2018, 15 years after that promise was made when they shut down Caroni, those workers who were affected then, let the Petrotrin workers look at the example that was set then, and you will see what will happen to the Petrotrin workers after this decision is made. We have had, as it was demonstrated today, Mr. Vice-President, very little information, and the Motion really addresses and asks the Government to come clean with the people of Trinidad and Tobago. If you can justify the decision to close the refinery, then let us see. The Hon. Minister of Energy and Energy Industries told the Leader of Opposition Business that it is a matter for the Cabinet to disclose the McKinsey and Solomon reports so that we could see on what basis the Government made this decision. I heard the hon. Prime Minister in Marabella saying that when this decision is made, history will absolve him. I remember that clearly. To quote him: history will absolve him. And he was very careful. He chose his words right. History will absolve him. I will tell you what history would not do. It will not absolve the PNM for the closure of Caroni and the closure of Petrotrin.
Because the Government could talk as much as they want about who is patriotic and who is not patriotic, but when history is written in Trinidad and Tobago, the two most unpatriotic acts would be the closure of Caroni and the closure of Petrotrin by the PNM administration. And then they come and they tell the country that it is 1,700 workers involved – Mr. Vice-President, let me set the record straight here. This PNM Government established a Lashley Committee that they put together to do a report, a team to review the operations of Petrotrin and make recommendations for its restructuring. So “doh” let them say is the UNC saying so.
Let me tell you what the Lashley Report says about the employment at Petrotrin.
At page 6: Petrotrin employs 5,322 employees… 3,841 permanent; 1,481 temporary, with 1,676 in the upstream, including Trinmar oil production; 1,197 permanent; 479 temporary; 1,328 permanent and 570 temporary in the refinery and marketing and 1,463 in the corporate and administration. That is 1,055 permanent, 408 temporary. And the President group comprises 354; 261 permanent, and 93. So do not come and tell the country that it is 1,700 people employed. Your report that your people that you appointed said it was 5,322. Those are people directly affected and those are the people who are going home. Everybody going home. We have limited time. Right over that on page seven, just to put it in perspective, Mr. Vice-President, over the fiscal period 2011 to fiscal 2015, Petrotrin paid no dividends to the Corporation Sole and tax payments to the country of $20.2 billion.
But you see, Mr. Vice-President, what we have been told is all we could go by. So what the Prime Minister told us was that we need to do this as a country. Why? Because he says, every year the leakage in Petrotrin denies the students of this country, schools; it denies them hospitals; it denies them medical care; it denies them roads. Right? But what I did not understand, and I hope the Government will tell us, is this. It seems as though the people of this country, Trinidad and Tobago, they only need roads and hospitals and schools and medical care—they only need that in 2018.
That is the only time that this Government realized they need that, and when Petrotrin is leaking money, that is what they are being denied. But you see, what they have to tell this country is when they spent $3billion on the GTL plant, we did not need roads then? We did not need schools then? When you spent $4 billion on a ULSD plant that is almost complete—you shut it down now—that money was not—that could not fix schools? That could not fix roads and bridges? That could not build the hospital?
You see, this Government exists from 2015. The PNM did not exist before that. It did not exist before that. So when they talk about the wastage at Petrotrin, the Prime Minister was very clear. He said that when those decisions were taken he was criticizing the Government in 2009. Well, I know a little bit. I am not a geologist, but I know a little bit about Petrotrin. So when the agreement was signed for the GTL plant in 2004, the finalization, and it started in 2006, where was the Prime Minister? He was not in Cabinet then? He did not have any problems then? When the ULSD project was designed under the PNM, where was the Prime Minister in 2007? When the GOP project, the Gas Optimization, was designed and they spent over $5 billion on it, where was the Prime Minister then? Why “you washing” your hands like Pontius Pilate now for? Take responsibility for the fact that where Petrotrin is today, it was the creation of the PNM. It is the genesis of the PNM. The wastage at Petrorin was the PNM. It was not the UNC that appointed Jupiter to the board as chairman. Who made Malcolm Jones executive chairman of Petrotrin? God rest his soul. But that soul “cah” rest in peace, because what the people are suffering here today is the creation of Jones, Jupiter and Julien, all three of them. And you can talk as much as you want, because I will tell you this. When Caroni was closed down, there was 70,000 acres of land that you could drive up and down the highway and see what it has been turned into today.
Let me tell you what the acreage and the value and what people are asking about. The land acreage that belongs to Petrotrin is 189,004 acres. Right? The offshore acreage is 810,892 acres. That is the value of what is jumping up in the air right now, and that is why people are concerned. You see that 189,004 acres and that 810,892 acres? That belongs to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. And we will not rest. Trinidad and Tobago will not rest, because I can tell you today—they took Caroni and put it in EMBD. I can tell you today. You see the 189,000 acres, as I speak, it will not go into the hands of Perenco. I can tell you that. It will not be sold out to Perenco. Because that is the buyer that “waiting” to buy Trinmar. That is what they want. But let me tell you, Mr. Vice-President. You see the PNM? They talk about being unpatriotic. I want to tell you the unpatriotic way of the PNM. They do not want to disclose to us what is going on at Petrotrin, and they do not want to disclose the reports either. And I want the country to listen to this carefully. The Minister of Energy and Energy Industries will correct me if I am wrong. In 2016, the board of Petrotrin took a decision to terminate the contract on the ULSD plant—to terminate it. Samsung then sued Petrotrin in arbitration. You know what the value of that claim is, Mr. Vice-President, on the ULSD project? US $250 million. You know what the defence of Petrotrin is? Breach of contract. Let me tell you what the case of Samsung is in the arbitration. The Minister of Energy and Energy Industries will tell you if it is wrong. Samsung is alleging that Petrotrin breached that contract because of the economic state of that country at that time—for economic reasons. You know by closing Petrotrin what they have done? They have virtually walked into a judgment against Samsung for US $250 million that they will not tell the country. Who “going” to pay that? And they want to talk about patriotic and patriotism? US $250 million—compare that to what we met when we went into government between 2010 and 2015.
We were faced with a claim by WGTL against Petrotrin for US $200 million, over $1.2 billion. They did not walk into a judgment. It was successfully defended and the people of Trinidad and Tobago came out winning that arbitration that was fought by a Prime Minister led by an Attorney General that worked on behalf of the people of this country. Let them talk about that. You see, Mr. Vice-President, today Sen. Mark asked about the Solomon Report. I want to let the people of Trinidad and Tobago know that the PNM will conceal every single report that has been produced. Do you know why? Because there is not a single report that the Cabinet of this country, led by the Prime Minister, that they have in their possession, that has recommended the shutdown of the refinery in Petrotrin. I will not allow Sen. Mark, at all, to be begging the Government for information. We do not operate like that on this side. So I will tell you what. Since the Government is taking their time and the Cabinet has to make a decision—and the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries understands how Cabinet works and they have to get Cabinet approval—we will wait on that, but the people of Trinidad and Tobago would not wait, because somebody dropped a copy of the Solomon Report in my mailbox. It is the original I have. It is the original, ring binder and everything. “Proprietary and Confidential” at the top. Is the original. Let me tell you what the Solomon Report says, that justifies the shutdown of Petrotrin: As such, in order to truly achieve a sustainable optimization of the workforce, several key factors must be considered and present within the business organization. You know what they recommended? Efficient work processes be implemented; clarity of roles and responsibilities; focused and aligned organizational structure; high level of skills and competency; utilization of technology and automation to help maximize productivity. The work force optimization recommendation identified with this project provides the organizational building blocks for Petrotrin to take an important step towards achieving its goal of becoming a performing business. I “doh” know—this is not the same Solomon that “they talking” about—top of the class: The proposed organizational structure and staffing targets will equip Petrotrin with the necessary resources to safely, effectively, and efficiently operate and maintain business, as well as capture significant value that is currently being lost.
Solomon’s approach to work force optimization is designed to achieve a sustainable level of improvement. Petrotrin must establish a continuous improvement culture to capture the significant value potential associated with improved reliability, enhanced business organization and increased work force efficiency. Continuous improvement is not just a project. It is a relentless, never-ending process as well as a culture change.
It is the hallmark of leading performance organizations and must become a way of life at Petrotrin. This type of transformational change can only be achieved by Petrotrin management, union leadership, and the shareholder all working together in concert to implement the necessary changes that will provide the foundational elements for Petrotrin to achieve a significantly increased level of efficiency, effectiveness and financial success for many years to come. That is not the UNC, Mr. Vice-President. That is the top of the class, Solomon. Do you know how much Petrotrin pay for that? Sixty million. So let them continue to tell the country and sing that saga, but do you know what the best part about it is? They say we shut down the refinery and go down to exploration and production. Right? No problem, but I do not know—let us hear what Lashley said about exploration and production.
The financial position of exploration and production division is cloudy at best. However, it clearly indicates that at current oil prices Petrotrin is substantially under-performing relative to similar operations elsewhere. Mr. Vice-President, you can see past what is being done here, you know. Petrotrin was deliberately sabotaged to be put in this position to facilitate a preconceived intentional and deliberate plan to sell out the assets of Petrotrin to friends and financiers and what they do not sell out we will deal with it in exploration and production because we know “who exploring and who producing”. I do not understand. Lashley had areas for improvement, operating expenses, refinery margins, equipment reliability, asset integrity, feedstock, but do you know why it is deliberate, Mr. Vice- President? I will tell you why it is deliberate. Because when the PNM came into power in 2015 there were two people working at Petrotrin at that time, John Barden, Vice President, and Ronald Huff, CFO—let the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries tell us why they were begging Barden to come back and he refused to work with the PNM. He refused to work with the PNM. They got rid of Huff because Huff, because of his position in the financial world, was already renegotiating the two bonds that was the millstone around the neck of the PNM— that Malcolm Jones put around the neck of Trinidad and Tobago—and he was getting an unsecured loan for US $500 million to renegotiate, but they were not interested in renegotiating because what they were interested in is executing.
So, Mr. Vice-President, today we want to ask the Government to tell us—the refinery is going to be closed—how the 5,300 workers at Petrotrin are going to provide for their families? The 5,322 workers—there are families at Petrotrin where a husband and wife are working at Petrotrin. The people who work at Petrotrin—as the Minister of Energy told us, he said you have a man cutting grass making $600 an hour. The people at Petrotrin they do not work for chicken feed, how are they going to meet those expenses for their children, and their families, their loans, their mortgages? How are they going to meet it? And this Government is telling us that history will absolve them. That is wishful thinking, Mr. Vice- President, but what I can tell you is the people of Trinidad and Tobago will not absolve them and that is something that is unforgivable because Petrotrin is part of the valuable patrimony of the people and it belongs to the future and the children of Trinidad and Tobago. It does not belong to the PNM to treat as though it is Balisier House they are dealing with.
Thank you Mr Vice President.