Madam Deputy Speaker the statement by the Leader of the Opposition and the conclusions he jumped to were based on information he received from Ancel Roget. There was a picture of both of them posing in the Express newspaper holding a report captioned “Oil Spill Cover up”. We have not seen that information that was presented to the Leader of the Opposition. We have not been sent a copy. We have no idea what are the contents and we have no idea who the author is. In any event, the Leader of the Opposition and Ancel Roget have told us nothing new.
Madam Deputy Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is a constitutional office holder. He is a Member of the House of Representatives. He could have used the instruments of Parliament to seek Petrorin’s views on the information presented to him and explained to him by Ancel Roget. He did not do this. Instead he formed his conclusion based on what was presented and explained to him by the OWTU President General.
Madam Deputy Speaker, Petrotrin is a State Enterprise owned by the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Some weeks ago Moody’s the international rating agency conducted their annual assessment of Petrotrin and reaffirmed the company’s credit rating at Baa3 which is investment grade. Only yesterday the management of the company met with Standard and Poor’s to conduct a similar exercise. Madam Deputy Speaker we are therefore left to wonder whether the injudicious statements by the Leader of the Opposition were deliberately designed to damage the company and negatively impact the national economy at this sensitive time.
The issue here is a continuation of a trend where the Leader of the Opposition receives information and without seeking other views, without pausing, he runs with it recklessly – heedless to the consequences for the country. It is similar to what happened with emailgate when he read into the Hansard record emails that alleged a conspiracy by the Prime Minister and other Ministers to murder a journalist. It is also similar to what happened with his accusation about the AG making racial statements in New York where the AG hadn’t visited New York in years.
Madam Deputy Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is a former Cabinet Minister and in particular would have served in the Manning Cabinet from 2002 to 2009. In those years as a member of Cabinet he would have been fully aware of the gross mismanagement of Petrotrin under the direction of the PNM. During that inglorious period at Petrotrin there was:
· The now infamous Gas to Liquids project which cost Petrotrin $3.0 billion TT dollars. That is a legacy of the PNM and is a stain on the reputation of Petrotrin.
· The Gasoline Optimization Programme where cost escalated from $US 350 million to $US 1.5 billion. This was due to a disastrous procurement strategy that included cost reimbursable contracts being awarded to companies . That essentially meant a blank cheque was issued by Petrotrin to these companies. That was under the watch of our friends opposite.
· There was the failed headquarters project under the watch of the PNM (the skeleton of the building is on the highway). This shell cost $170 million TT dollars.
· There was a deliberate rundown of Trinmar under the watch of the PNM where no investment was taking place while money passed through the GTL and GOP projects like a dose of salts.
· Finally there is the debt situation of the company. In 2002 the debt was $3.3 billion. By the time our friends opposite left office it has escalated to $12.4 billion. That is an almost four fold increase in debt in eight years under the PNM. This debt is mainly related to the Gasoline Optimization Programme.
Madam Deputy Speaker let me take this opportunity to advise the Parliament that all plants associated with the Gasoline Optimization Programme are now on commercial production and Petrotrin is now focused on maximizing economic returns to service the extraordinarily high debt of the company that is a creature of the PNM period of management.
That was the state the PNM left Petrotrin as in 2010. The Leader of the Opposition therefore lacks the moral authority to pontificate on matters related to Petrotrin.
Madam Deputy Speaker we are about moving forward. Madam Deputy Speaker, I am advised that the beaches in La Brea are substantially cleaned. To date Petrotrin has spent close to $20 million in cleanup and compensation. Of this some $3.4 million has been paid in compensation to date.
Madam Deputy Speaker, it should be noted that matters related to the oil spill or oil spills are the subject of two police reports. There is also an ongoing investigation by Petrotrin Police. Twelve employees have been suspended in relation to the investigation into the release of fuel oil at the Pointe-a-Pierre jetty. These suspended employees include two supervisors, 2 shift team leaders, one port coordinator and one engineer.
There is work being done by the EMA and the Ministry of Energy and there is a task force that has been established by the Cabinet that would investigate the source of and causes of the oil spill or oil spills.
Madam Deputy Speaker while others have been working very hard to undermine and discredit the national energy sector, the Ministry of Energy guided by the Cabinet that is led by the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been busy revitalizing our exploration and production capability. As a consequence, there has been a dramatic increase in exploration and production activity.
At present there are eight rigs working in our waters. This compares to one rig working in our waters in mid-2010. In addition, between 2012 and 2013 the Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs signed seven deepwater production sharing contracts with a collective work programme valued at $1.9 billion US dollars. Mr. Speaker, Foreign Direct Investment has grown from US$549 million in 2010 to US$2.5 billion in 2012. The increase in investment has led to four new discoveries of oil and gas including a discovery of one trillion cubic feet of natural gas by BP in late 2012. This natural gas is now being produced through the new Savonette wells.
Madam Deputy Speaker in closing I would like to implore the Leader of the Opposition and indeed all members of the Opposition bench to be more judicious and less reckless in their comments especially as it relates to matters that directly impact the economic wellbeing of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.