As with most of the population, I myself anxiously awaited the official statement from the Board of Petrotrin regarding the future of this historical and economic significant company.
To say that I was shocked or taken aback by the announcement of the immediate closure of the Refinery operations and the apparent termination of approximately 2,500 staff members is too simple a term to use.
In looking back at the news and archives preceding this announcement and in listing to the views presented by various commentators, I have come to the conclusion, as have many, that following the announcement today we are left with more questions that answers.
Now let me be clear, we all can agree that, given the current state of the company, decisions had to be made to ensure the viability of the organisation in the long term. However given the political, cultural and economic role the company has played in our development as a country, other considerations also needed to be considered.
Whether or not the decision to close down the refinery and scale down the focus of the company on the up stream was the right one, I am in no position to say yes or no. However, the process that was used to reach that decision—as well as the consequences—I am in a position to question.
Therefore here is a list of questions that I believe the Union, Staff, Contractors of Petrotrin and the wider public have a right to know the answers to:
- Given that the current Chairman, Mr Espinet was a member of the The Petrotrin Review Committee and signed the completed report that was submitted to Cabinet, does he still stand by the recommendations of that report? If not what conditions have changed to make him change his mind?
- In November 2017 the Government indicated that it would make the Lashley Report public. However to date it has not. Can the Minister of Energy or the PM please indicate why?
- How many independent contractors will be affected by the shutting down of the refinery?
- If the refinery is to be closed down, what is the expected cost to DE-commission the refinery and who will bear that cost?
- What is the time line (start and end) for this to take place?
- Given that we will now be importing all our petrol, aviation fuel etc, what would now be the role of the National Petroleum Company?
- Additionally, does this now mean that the fuel subsidy would be no more and consumers will be paying the price based on the international market?
- Where will we now be importing our products from and when will this begin?
- If and when our oil production increases, due to a now increased emphasis being placed on Exploration and Production, with no refinery, where will this oil be now refined?
These are just some of the questions that have been left hanging for me and I am sure there are many many more. Therefore, in the public Interest I am of the strong belief that the Government, the Minister of Energy and the Board of Petrotrin needs to be more transparent in terms of the information used to arrive at this decision as well as the plan going forward.
Failure to do so can only contribute to distrust and a perception of corrupt and unaccountable practices in dealing with one of the countries most prized assets.