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Dear Editor: Scrap iron proposal can earn forex for TT, Dr Rowley must think outside box

‘[…] [The scrap iron] sector has been disregarded by officialdom, perhaps because it is not a fancy or glamorous business, operated in the main by small business people who are socially unrelated to the traditional elites…

‘[…] Dr Rowley’s leadership will be judged [on] whether or not his government has shifted the pattern of ownership of wealth in the country away from the traditional controllers. He promised much with the sale of the refinery and failed to deliver. Will he fail with respect to how they deal with the Scrap Iron Dealers’ Association (SIDA)? …’

Photo: Scrap iron (by Michael Schaffler on Unsplash)

The following Letter to the Editor about the proposal to remove shipwrecks by the Scrap Iron Dealers’ Association (SIDA) was submitted to Wired868 by David Abdulah, political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ):

The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) repeats its warning that the country is in a very deep economic crisis and the Rowley-led PNM government seems incapable of taking any steps to get us out of difficulty. All this government is doing is to hope for some miracle. That is not happening anytime soon and for those who understand Scripture, God really only helps those who help themselves.

The MSJ has always articulated alternative approaches to development, policies that would change the economic structures of wealth and power. We advocated in our ‘Roadmap for the Recovery and Changing of T&T’ policies and actions that would create foreign exchange or save us buying from abroad by producing more local goods and services; create decent sustainable jobs and stimulate the economy.

This requires innovative ‘out of the box’ thinking and decision making that is not tied to satisfying the interests of the controllers of economic power and wealth. Take for example the scrap iron sector. This sector has been disregarded by officialdom, perhaps because it is not a fancy or glamorous business operated in the main by small business people who are socially unrelated to the traditional elites.

In the past few years, however, it has become better organised under the umbrella of the Scrap Iron Dealers’ Association (SIDA). This body has been putting forward a number of very innovative proposals for economic activity that could generate significant forex and create jobs.

SIDA has also developed some very savvy media programmes to publicise the importance and potential of this sector. It has called for the sector to be regulated to ensure compliance with the laws such as anti-money laundering, etc.

Photo: Ship wreck (by Ioana Mohanu on Unsplash)

One very recent proposal by SIDA is that it be given a contract to salvage all the marine wrecks around the country’s waters. SIDA does not wish to be paid for this. It would raise the capital and organise the salvage of the ships and pay for this investment through the subsequent sale of the scrap metals obtained from the salvaged ships.

This seems to the MSJ to be a win-win proposal: the country would be rid of wrecks that are an environmental hazard and a danger to those vessels that utilise our waters; the government would not have to spend money to have this done; and SIDA would earn forex from the sale of the scrap metals and create hundreds of jobs.

The MSJ calls on the Rowley PNM government to seriously engage SIDA on this proposal. One of the measures by which Dr Rowley’s leadership will be judged is whether or not his government has shifted the pattern of ownership of wealth in the country away from the traditional controllers. He promised much with the sale of the refinery and failed to deliver. Will he fail with respect to how they deal with SIDA? Time will tell, but to date, the record is not good.

Already the small scrap metal firms that used to bid and purchase scrap metal from the former Petrotrin seem to have been locked out of the recent bidding process, a process that saw bids close more than six months ago, but for which no award has yet been made. We wonder if this is because someone favours the big contractors who have now jumped into the picture to get control of this market as well.

Photo: Collecting scrap metal (by Kelly Lacy from Pexels)

Something must be done urgently to stimulate the economy and the PNM government is dragging its feet as the country sinks deeper into difficulty. Our foreign exchange situation continues to deteriorate. More and more people are unemployed. Workers’ earning power is being cut daily as prices rise. The majority of people are struggling to survive and many, many thousands are living in poverty.

It is the government’s responsibility to implement policies to change things for the betterment of the majority of the people. This government (and the last), however, go along with the status quo.

The Covid 19 pandemic presented an opportunity to make real change, but in typical PNM style, this opportunity has been squandered as its own Roadmap for Recovery collects dust like so many other studies and recommendations over the years.

How the government engages with a non-traditional sector like SIDA will tell us where they stand.

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2 comments

  1. Do they need permission to salvage wrecks? Just wondering why they need a govt stamp of approval…when they could just go do…or is it that some other party is vying for salvaging of those wrecks?

  2. thehandbehindthecurtain

    If a vessel has sank since years and neither the owners of said vessel, their insurance company or the State are willing to remove the vessel then why should a private company be barred from removing it. Surely one could justifiably argue that the owners have abdicated any ownership by leaving their vessel under water to rust in TT waters. Surely property rights cannot be expected to be absolute. The fact that a company will remove it for free is a win. Why were these vessels never removed, wpuld this have been possible in developed nations like Germany, USA, Canada etc.?
    Which officials are normally tasked with such matters of vessel retrieval/removal?