By Eve George
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — As Trinidad and Tobago is about to celebrate its 56th anniversary of political independence, its state owned oil refinery company Petrotrin, which has employed thousands of permanent and contract workers over the last decades will now be shutting down in the near future, according to Petrotrin officials and government ministers.
Petrotrin is a state owned enterprise in the integrated oil and gas industry, engaged in the full range of petroleum operations including exploration for development of and production of hydrocarbons, and the manufacturing and marketing of a wide range of petroleum products.
Petrotrin has played a pivotal role in the economy of Trinidad and Tobago and its closing may mean that the subsidies on petroleum and oil-based products enjoyed by residents will inevitably come to an end.
All 1,700 jobs in refining will be terminated.
The Pointe-a-Pierre South Trinidad Refinery was built by Petrotrin’s predecessor Trinidad Leaseholds Limited (TLL) in 1917. British Petroleum (BPTT), Shell, Texaco and others were also joint partners. The refinery, which later became the largest refinery in the country, went through a number of transformations over the years, while corruption at government levels increased, resulting in monumental debt.
Petrotrin has lost a total of about TT$8 billion in the last five years; is TT$12 billion in debt; and owes the government of Trinidad and Tobago more than TT$3 billion in taxes and royalties.
According to the company, it currently requires a cash injection of TT$25 billion to stay alive – to refresh its infrastructure, and to repay its debt – and even with that, if left as is, it is projected to continue losing about TT$2 billion a year.
In recent months the owner of A&V Oil and Gas Limited, Hanif Nizam Baksh, was accused by leader of the opposition, Kamla Persad Bissesser, of defrauding Petrotrin of just over TT$100 million (US$14.8 million). Baksh is a financier of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) and very close friend of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
On Tuesday, the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) leader Ancel Roget, who recently called Rowley a “liar” and a “wajang” (local term for a low life, uncouth person), held meetings with workers.
According to former minister Vasanth Bharath, Petrotrin is the embodiment of poor corporate governance, expressed in bad policy decisions, wastage, corruption, nepotism — and more.