“One would swear that [Franklin] Khan’s government had just come into office and didn’t have a clue as to what is going on; that Petrotrin was some runaway horse whose directors and management did what they wanted.
“[…] All of these projects were started during the chairmanship of Malcolm Jones, who was the late Patrick Manning’s blue eyed boy. All of these projects were the brainchildren of Patrick Manning’s government, of which Khan was a member.”
In the following Letter to the Editor, Gerry Kangalee of the National Workers Union slams the supposed hypocrisy and callousness of the PNM government in letting thousands of workers pay for political mismanagement:
The hypocrisy and duplicity of the politicians who have been plundering public funds for decades stinks to high heaven. Let us take Minister Franklin Khan’s statement about Petrotrin being a black hole and could bankrupt the country.
He says: “once Petrotrin cannot face its bankers and put a plan in place to repay its debt, the obvious corollary is that they will need a government guarantee which will throw all our indicators way off course… It is unimaginable the dire consequences if not managed properly.”
He speaks of Petrotrin’s “massive” debt profile in excess of $TT 13 billion (which has to be paid in US dollars) and calls on the citizens to support the government in its attempt to bring stability and long term viability to the company.
If something is not done, he said, Petrotrin and or the government will have to find a cheque of US$850 million to pay the bondholders next year when a bullet payment becomes due.
Khan then appeals to citizens to be patriotic—the last refuge of scoundrels—meaning that we should support the retrenchment of hundreds of workers, which will lead to the devastation of small business commerce throughout the South and have a boomerang effect on thousands of other jobs that depend on Petrotrin and devastate whole communities.
One would swear that Khan’s government had just come into office and didn’t have a clue as to what is going on; that Petrotrin was some runaway horse whose directors and management did what they wanted.
Everybody knows that these state enterprises take instructions from the government. In some cases, they are closely micromanaged by the politicians and used as sources for dispensing patronage to financiers and supporters of the party in power through the provision of unnecessary management positions, massive contract corruption, outright theft and, most importantly, mega projects that generate billions of dollars for foreign construction companies, local suppliers, consultants, politicians and their friends, financiers and other assorted hangers on.
Of course while all these private interests fill their pockets with public funds, citizens are the ones holding the empty bag.
How come Petrotrin has such a high debt burden and has nothing to show for it? In 2005 Petrotrin got involved in the infamous, scandalous World GTL project, which initially was to cost $165 million and ended up costing $3.3 billion, including interest payments on the loan that was sourced from Credit Suisse. All kinds of people, local and foreign, made money off that project and now the taxpaying citizens are faced with the fallout.
The Gas Optimisation Project began in 2006. The initial cost of the project was pegged at US$600 million or TT$3.85 billion. The final tally is US$1.4 billion, or TT$8.9 billion.
Some TT$170 million has been spent on new corporate headquarters which was abandoned.
The initial cost of the ultra-low sulphur diesel plant was estimated at US$112 million with construction beginning in 2009. So far, Petrotrin has injected US$421 million with another US$300 million needed to finish the project.
These are some of the major projects which generated billions—none of which advanced the interests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, but certainly created multi-millionaires, used up foreign exchange and deprived citizens of the benefits that our national patrimony entitled us to.
All of these projects were started during the chairmanship of Malcolm Jones, who was the late Patrick Manning’s blue eyed boy. All of these projects were the brainchildren of Patrick Manning’s government, of which Khan was a member.
Both Prime Minister Rowley and Colm Imbert, Minister of Finance, were senior members of the cabinet when the government approved these projects. Today, they are posing as saviours of Petrotrin when, in fact, they are responsible for the mess in which Petrotrin finds itself.
Of course, they are not going to be made to pay for the ‘gobar’ that passes for governance. The workers and the citizens are the ones being made to hold the shitty end of the stick. But, you see, we ent riot yet!