The recent announcement by the Caribbean Nitrogen Company to shutdown it’s operations due to the non-supply of natural gas from NGC is a clear indication that our energy downstream industry is in Jeopardy under this PNM administration.
This revelation which has put the livelihood of over 400 workers in jeopardy is a severe blow to the energy sector and means that for a second consecutive year our nation will see hundreds of workers within the downstream sector be thrown on the breadline as a another critical firm engaged in downstream activities is forced to shut down due to the actions of the National Gas Company as was seen with the shutdown of Methanol Holdings in March 2017. This is a volatile situation which can be quite detrimental to our national economy as besides the loss of jobs, Trinidad and Tobago has now lost a valuable earner of foreign exchange at a time when our we face a sustained shortage of forex.
One must question the intention of the National Gas Company as reports from the management of the Caribbean Nitrogen Company suggest that for over one year the company has been making numerous concessions as they try to achieve a permanent supply of Gas. Therefore for over one year the NGC Board and the Ministry of Energy would have been aware of the dire consequences and loss of jobs that would result if nothing was done. Yet they chose to take no positive action which has led to this point of disaster for the company and its workers.
Given the MHTL closure of 2017 and this present situation the following questions must be asked; “Is the NGC deliberately not renewing its gas contracts to cause certain companies within the downstream industry to shut down and lay off workers? Are all users of natural gas within the downstream sector in jeopardy of closure under the leadership of this PNM administration?”
These questions become pertinent as what appears to be occurring is NGC trying to squeeze downstream users of natural gas into paying higher prices. Despite the change offactors within the natural gas sector it is critical that the NGC as a state owned company tailor its policies to what is best for our national economy and our citizens. The NGC cannot allow local firms to shut down and find comfort that their gas can be purchased on the international market because even though they will generate income via this route, the consequences to the local economy of lower economic growth, less foreign exchange, mass unemployment, possible closures of other dependent industries will be catastrophic to Trinidad and Tobago given the economic turmoil facing us presently.
The Rowley led PNM must take full responsibility for the disaster now confronting the downstream Sector and his government now has to reveal the negotiated gas price agreed with several energy companies whilst on his recent trip to Houston Texas in 2017.
It’s almost as if government and the NGC are creating a perfect storm within the Energy sector to allow “their friends” to buyout the sector in due course.
Given the level of instability within the energy sector in the past two years due to this administration’s incompetence one wonders if the next step by Government to undermine Trinidad and Tobago’s Energy Architecture would be layoffs at state-owned Petrotrin or even the selloff of key assets under the disguise of restructuring.
Dr. David Lee,
Member of Parliament for Pointe-a-Pierre.