T&T ready to build off-shore rigs

(Trinidad Guardian) Bring your platform blueprints and come.

That’s Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s invitation to BP, seeking to have the company build its Cassia oil drilling platform in La Brea.

It will be T&T’s second bid for such a project with BP after losing out previously on BP’s Juniper platform.

Rowley spoke about the effort in a wide-ranging address at yesterday’s 47th PNM convention at the Queen’s Park Savannah. Rowley reiterated T&T’s tough economic circumstances, Government’s remedies and progress — rallying PNMites to deal with the situation.

Among potential areas to tap into, Rowley said Government is in close contact with BP “where we’re engaged in hopeful discussions that we can compete successfully and win the bid to build the Cassia platform in La Brea.”

“There are many benefits to be had for our local skilled people. So we say to BP and to the fledgeling Guyanese oil industry also: bring your platform blueprints and come, we have the skills to build them here.”

On criticisms of Government’s 12.5 per cent royalty on gas, Rowley also said, “In my discussions with BP I’ve said to that company’s leadership, ‘you’re doing a good job in T&T to the satisfaction of your shareholders, but I as Prime Minister, have shareholders too — the people of T&T.”

“They’re the original owners of the resource. They too need to be satisfied and it cannot be that whilst the grass is growing, the horse is starving.”

Rowley said Government is seeing positive indicators in the slowing of the retrenchment rate.

“This, where we’ve received notices of 1,134 persons to be retrenched over the period January 2017 to September 2017 compared to 2,384 persons for the same period in 2016.”

“For the period September 2015 to September 2017, we’ve received to date notices of 4,829 persons to be retrenched. Against this background, we see a progressive decline in the unemployment rate from 4.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2016 to 4.0 per cent in the third quarter of 2016 and then to 3.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016.”

Rowley said Government’s 10-point plan to deal with the economic situation includes “preserving as many public sector job opportunities as the new circumstances can sustain and encourage private sector job expansion.”

He said a recent study on the tax gap showed the corporate tax gap to be between TT$5.1 B and TT$6.6 B and the VAT gap between $1.9 B and TT$ 2.4 B. “There’s uncollected tax of between $7.0 B and $9.0 B.”

“What T&T needs is a better, more efficient, tax collection/enforcement system. Take careful note of who has a problem with that – who is saying ‘leave it so’- if they’re in the corporate or well-off sector,” he said.

Rowley said the Port Authority is expected to provide an additional passenger ferry on the route very soon.

“This vessel with additional capacity and more reliable sailings will go a long way towards eliminating hardships associated with this service. For Tobagonians, particularly, the end of the inconveniences and disappointments is near,” he said.

COMMUNICATION WEAKNESS TO BE ADDRESSED —ROWLEY

We’ll be closer to you.”

That assurance came from Prime Minister Keith Rowley last week in response to claims of neglect from party foot soldiers.Earlier in PNM’s convention, several delegates called for attention to be paid to PNM

members, for Government officials, MPs to be more available and for party weaknesses – including outreach – to be rectified.

“Suffice to say we shall be in closer communication with you so when the time comes, you’ll be in a position not only to be aware of the tremendous strides which we’re making but you’ll be fortified to defend your party,” he said.

“We’re grateful for your patience and understanding in not having lived up in areas where perhaps your demands may have been higher than the delivery could have afforded. But given the circumstances, we believe that we’ve done much more than reasonably well.”

Rowley said draft legislation for Tobago’s self-government is in final stages before reaching Cabinet. It will be tabled before Parliament “imminently and from there will move expeditiously to the Law Reform Commission.”

Adding that PNM’s next convention will be held in Tobago, he said, “Hopefully then, we’d be in a position to tell Tobagonians that Parliament has acted on their ambitions.” Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis also presented aspects of Government’s 2030 plan.

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