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Demming: Demise of Refining; the legacy of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

I left the oil industry in 1989 because I was impatient with the wait for the VSEP money which was rumoured to be on the way. Since then, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago knew that Trintoc/Petrotrin needed dramatic restructuring; but our politicians continued to use the company as a reward centre for party faithfuls while organisational decay took root.

Petrotrin’s arrow to the heart occurred under the watch of the PNM with the failed gas to liquids deal. The principle of collective responsibility requires that the current Prime Minister and Minister of Finance take full responsibility and admit that they were part of that decision making. They were part of the government of the day.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and his wife Sharon during 2017 Independence Day celebrations.
(Copyright Office of the Prime Minister)

Maybe this bold move by Prime Minister Rowley is such an admission and an attempt to redeem himself and the PNM. But this decision in his 35th month in office is problematic.

Does he have the time to recover from the fall out? Seventeen hundred families will wake up with a cheque in hand, but little else. Several other families of contractors, small businesses and suppliers will soon realise the dagger to their hearts.

The “Wetmen” will be asking: so how am I getting gas for my TIDA?

The legacy voters of the PNM will be waiting to be told what the next move will be. The Prime Minister is relying on the PNM faithful to help him ride this tumultuous wave.

Over the past 20 years, we have seen alternative administrations dismantle the legacies of their predecessors to the detriment of the country. You and I, our children and our grandchildren have all had to pay the price for the arrogance and lack of collaborative approach by these people. Not one Prime Minister over the past 20 years has demonstrated the ability to act in the national interest by doing whatever was necessary to collaborate on these huge decisions.

Photo: Former Prime Minister and current Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(Courtesy Caricom.com)

Prime Minister Rowley could have used this opportunity to “Collaborate With the Enemy” (the title of a book by Adam Kahane) with a vision of Trinidad and Tobago in 50+ years. This issue is bigger than crime and money laundering because of its economic, social and political impact.

My memory of it will be how my generation failed after a 75-year experiment with the refining industry.

The founder of the PNM, the late Dr Eric Williams, sold me the concept of taking charge of the commanding heights of the economy. His successor is now systematically dismantling every vestige of those commanding heights.

For more than two years, I have been writing about the need for accountability, transparency and collaboration and how it can potentially impact us positively. This is another lost opportunity for true collaboration in order to change the conversation.  Instead what prevails is the “winner take all” strategy and dominance of the patriarchy.

So far, your legacy, Mr Prime Minister, is to dismantle the vision of our first Prime Minister.

I suppose, when you return to Mason Hall and the three golf courses, you will feel proud that it was not “From Mason Hall to White Hall” but From Mason Hall to Mason Hall!

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley shows off his skills on the golf course.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming is an Adjunct Faculty Member at UWI, Media and Communications Strategist, TEDxPOS organiser and co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain and Chairman of the Board at TTTHTI. Dennise, who grew up in East POS, also has a Business MBA and B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and Mass Communications from UWI.

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4 comments

  1. Perhaps the concept of the “government taking command of the heights of the economy” is outdated and may have contributed to the demise of the company, especially when it was doing well.

    Perhaps in an independent nation -56 years old-the citizens can be encouraged to take greater part in the commanding heights of the economy encouraged by government fiscal policy and long term planning.

    Perhaps the dismantling of a failing government enterprise is a step in the right direction; although unplanned -from the perspective of an outsider. Perhaps the Prime Minister/government, thought complicit in its demise , is courageous enough to act.

    Perhaps it is not too late for the government to articulate a long term plan / vision for the company and industry. Perhaps they may and your memory will be how the people came to “take control of the economy”.

  2. How is it that we saved CL financial a private corporation owned by Duprey using Tax payer rainy day savings but we can’t save our greatest asset gas and oil Petrotrin ???

  3. Hinduism as a religion is old. Very old. From long eras past, lessons have been taught to each successive generation via stories. I came across one such story recently I would like to share; you may see the point after reading. It is a bit long, but if you read, I trust you see the light.

    Somadev, a great hermit, lived in a forest that spread along the borders of two kingdoms. Dhanadutta and Dhiradutta were the kings of the two neighbouring lands. Although the two kings competed with each other on many things, their reverence for Somadev was equal. Whenever they faced any problem, they met the hermit, who never failed to give them the right solution.

    Generally, the kings met the hermit individually. There was never an occasion for both the kings to go to him together. The hermit had equal affection for both. In fact, it was because of the hermit that the two kings were on friendly terms.

    One day, the two kings met in the forest while hunting. Leaving their entourage behind, both went to meet the hermit to pay him their obeisance. The hermit was pleased to see them.

    He said, “It is very good that you came. I am about to go into a trance, and for five long years I shall remain in that state. You will not have the benefit of my advice. However, here are two small caskets. Each of you can take one home. If you face a crisis which proves too strong for you, then open the casket. The solution will come out of it. But make sure that before opening the casket you have tried all other means of solving the crisis. If you misuse the casket, I will take it back from you when I come out of my trance”.

    The kings received the caskets with gratitude and returned to their palaces. Soon a severe drought befell both the kingdoms. Crops failed. The people grew panicky.

    King Dhanadutta opened the casket given to him. A million gold coins spilled out of it. The king spent the wealth in buying foodstuff from distant lands for his subjects. Thus the drought, which could have resulted in a devastating famine, did not cause much hardship to his people.

    But Dhiradutta, instead of opening the casket, mobilised all his resources, dug wells and canals, and encouraged the people to grow new crops. He did not allow a morsel of food to go out of his kingdom. The people had to experience hardship, but the crisis passed when the next monsoon came, and all were happy.

    Dhanadutta now desired to launch new projects in his land so that his people would grow more prosperous than Dhiradutta’s subjects. He wished to know how to proceed in the matter, and so he opened his casket again. This time there was a line of writing inside the casket. It read: “Wait and see”.

    Next day, a stranger met Dhanadutta and said, “I have invented a device by which I can tell if there are precious minerals in your kingdom hidden under the earth. I can help you locate them on one condition: I shall own half of whatever is discovered”.

    Dhanadutta found in it an easy way to prosperity. He utilised the services of the stranger and found large deposits of minerals.

    A few days later, the stranger met Dhiradutta and put forth the same proposal. But Dhiradutta was not willing to accept his condition.

    Five years passed. The hermit woke up from his trance and paid a visit to the two kingdoms. He saw the subjects of Dhanadutta prosperous and happy. But Dhiradutta’s subjects, though not unhappy, were working hard for their prosperity.

    The hermit asked both the kings to meet him with the caskets. He let them tell what they had done with the caskets. Dhiradutta said he had not used the casket at all. Dhanadutta narrated how he had used it twice and stated, “The result is obvious. My subjects are happy”. But to Dhanadutta’s surprise, the hermit asked him to return the casket while he allowed Dhiradutta to keep his.

    “Tell me, why did the hermit take back the casket from one who had made proper use of it?

    “Dhanadutta did not make proper use of the casket. He made no other effort to get over the crisis before opening the casket. He provided food for his subjects, but that he did at the cost of their own zeal to try solving the problem. Thereby he made them lazy.

    Without any thought he allowed the stranger to own half of the minerals of his land. Thereby he deprived the future generations of the land’s wealth.

    Dhiradutta, on the other hand, was confident that the casket will go to his rescue if his own efforts failed. He made best use of the casket by not using it! That is to say, the confidence he got from the mere possession of the casket was his strength. He did not sell away any part of his land’s minerals for immediate benefit. Hence, he deserved to keep the casket”.

    Do you see my point?