TRINIDAD – Opposition leader predicts gloomy future
PORT OF SPAIN –– Painting a gloomy picture of the local energy sector, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley recognizing it as still the driving force of the economy, has warned of hard times ahead for the country. He referred in particular to falling prices and lower production levels in both gas and oil, charging that in the near future, people may have to band their bellies and “behave better to live with less”.
“There is a shortage of gas to meet our consumption levels and the Point Lisas Industrial plant is underperforming because there is just not enough gas to perform at its maximum,” Rowley said.
“Government would not want to talk about this. We are sitting on a big problem.”
He zeroed in on the performance of the energy sector during a wide ranging address at a PNM political meeting at Market Square in Point Fortin on Wednesday evening.
Rowley expanded his analysis by pointing to decreased levels of oil production from about 200,000 barrels per day to now under 80,000. On-land production, he said, was lower than last year’s, while offshore’s is the same. He noted that the fall in the global oil prices meant a fall in gas prices, both being fuels. Emphasizing that there was also a decrease in gas production, the PNM leader deemed 2008 the best earning year in history in Trinidad, receiving $13 per unit for gas.
This figure, he added, had now dropped to $2.25. He reiterated that for every dollar drop in the price of oil, the country lost $100 million in revenues.
Accusing the government of “reckless expenditure with nothing to show”, Rowley said despite such an important issue, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her “UNC government” were behaving as though this did not matter. Unless something drastic happened, Rowley charged, the people were going to have to live with lower prices and less revenue.
Among his concerns was the possibility of the United States to whom most of the country’s gas is sold, becoming an exporter.
“If we are not careful our main market, the USA of five years ago, could become an exporter of gas in the Caribbean. You will never hear a word of this from the government because all of them have absolutely no interest in this,” Rowley said.
To compound the crises in the energy sector, Rowley declared that at the Point Lisas Industrial plant, gas contracts were coming to an end without any action from government to renegotiate. He later assured that the smelter plant, proposed years ago by a then PNM administration, would not be continued since the People’s Partnership government shut down that project.
Saying there was no mention of the word smelter in the PNM’s manifesto, Rowley vowed his party would pursue other aspects of industrialization if elected. He called on government to say what the contractual arrangements were with the Chinese?
“What are our financial liabilities with the Chinese,” Rowley questioned. “I am guaranteeing you it will fall to the PNM to pay off all liabilities that fall from the shutting down of the smelter. They [the PP] have not legally closed down the smelter and the Chinese are sitting there very quietly, as patient as they normally are, waiting to hear the end of that story.”
Confident of a victory at the polls next month, Rowley vowed that when the PNM got into office its members would be the best team deal with whatever difficulty existed.