(Trinidad Guardian) Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday morning confirmed that he expects to get a new operator for the moth-balled Pointe-a-Pierre refinery.
“We expect to have it leased in a matter of months,” he told The Morning Brew host Hema Ramkissoon during a wide-ranging interview on the economy and Government plans going forward.
“We are going out to find out that the international market wants.”
Rowley’s statement comes after the executive at the reformatted Pointe-a-Pierre refinery issued a request for proposal (RFP). Energy Minister Franklin Khan subsequently walked back the proposal, claiming said the sale of Paris Fuel Trading Company Limited was “inadvertently issued” by the company’s chairman Wilfred Espinet in the RFP. Khan said the RFP will be withdrawn.
However, Rowley confirmed that Government is testing the market and advertising the refinery for lease.
He said: “It is premature to write an article now about it going for sale. We have gone out, inviting interested parties. We have to wait and see, no need to jump out prospecting. We will treat with serious offers.
“We have not gotten out of Petrotrin, we have not gotten out of the oil business. We are out of the refinery business,” he said.
Rowley said he is not sure of the current value of Paria and is also not sure what is a good criteria for lease and also defended Khan’s retraction of the RFP. “The line minister did nothing that was surprising,” he said. “We were losing money on every barrel. The bottom line is we are importing 100,000 barrels a day and lose between US$3-7 a day.”
According to the Prime Minister, it cost some $2.4 bill to pay off Petrotrin workers. He assured that they “have a little cushion going forward.”
He compared the shutting down of Petrotrin to getting sick and going to a doctor. While that visit may include an injection or bad-tasting medicine, it will get better, he said.
Rowley also defended Government’s multi-million dollar rental of a building linked to Attorney General, Faris Al-Rawi.
“We were never against persons providing rentals to the State,” he said, adding that while Government had state spaces, it sometimes had to utilise rentals to house Government offices.
“That had gone on for quite some time. There have been corrupt practices from time to time,” he said.
Rowley commenting on the rental of One Alexandra Place by former Prime Minister Patrick Manning, which was inherited by the United National Congress (UNC), said: “The outfitting of that building moved from $23 million to $71 million. That is corruption.”
He said that once the person linked to the property recuses himself from the negotiations, there is no corruption.
“I ensured he wasn’t even in the room,” Rowley said.
He also defended Government’s lease of a building in Fyzabad owned by the Energy Minister’s wife for the Children’s Court, insisting that being linked to the People’s National Movement (PNM) does not exclude anyone from doing business with the government.
“When it was approved, we were satisfied it was value for money,” he said.