Speaking in the late hours of last evening’s Budget debate, Indarsingh questioned the Minister of Finance as to whether a firm from Hong Kong and another from France were already chosen underhandedly by the Government to acquire the port.
The entities are CMA CGM, with its headquarters in Marseille, France, and
Orient Overseas Container Line commonly known as OOCL a container shipping and logistics service Company based in Hong Kong.Indarsingh demanded to know whether the Government was already in talks with these entities. If this is the case then the Government would be in breach of the tenets of transparency, equal opportunity and good governance.
Additionally, such a move would preempt local interests from getting preference at a time when the boosting of the local economy and local enterprise is critical.
Indarsingh also noted that the Government recently invested $17million in a ship-to-shore gantry crane, questioning the reason for such a purchase by the taxpayer when the privatization agenda should mean that incoming private operators should be responsible for such large capital expenditure.
In noting the complex nature of privatization initiatives, Indarsingh chastised the Government for not telling the nation about the business model they intended to pursue for the port, noting that there could be a variety of business models which meant a variety of consequences to the taxpayer.
Indarsingh also called on the Government through the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Works and Transport to state whether the Government had rejected the overtures of the SWWTU to address the issue of the operating costs of the Port of Port of Spain, where the Union called on the Port Authority to send home 675 workers in the age category of 60-65 years to save the state enterpise from going belly up.
Additionally,Indarsingh sought clarification from the Government on why the Board of Commissioners and the management of the Port Authority has not followed through on the Union’s commitment to international best practices to address the reduction of gang sizes,making the Port operational 24/7 which would have realised workers working on Saturdays/Sundays at straight time and no longer at premium rates.
Further, Indarsingh expressed concern that the SWWTU President Michael Annisette had indicated that the union, which represents the majority of workers on the port, was not consulted regarding the imminent privatization, chiding the Prime Minister for what he described as a breach of collective bargaining agreements and proper industrial relation practices , expressing concern that these breaches could put port workers on the back foot in terms the safety of their jobs, pensions and benefits.This leaves one to question whether this decision to restructure the Port of Port of Spain was in PNM’s Manifesto of 2020
and if not how indeed has it made its way into the fiscal package of 2020.