The Big, Great PNM COVER-UP!

-Neil Gosine

I find it astounding that the Government was able to pull off such a farce! Weren’t they going to give the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union-owned, Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Limited the Petrotrin refinery? Why then did they subsequently reject Patriotic Energies’ offer not once, not twice, but three times? The PNM led Government is really that good, I must say! 

The government was able to convince the President of the OWTU that they would sign a contract with the union to reopen Petrotrin after the General Elections of August 10th 2020.

This charade however, had started before the elections even began. After spending much time and energies convincing the population that closure was the only course of action due to the massive drain of the public purse, they turned around and convinced Ancil Roget and his cohorts that Patriotic Energies would be the chosen one to get the Petrotrin refinery to own and operate. This deal was allegedly offered in return for their support at the polls.

My question is, was this action really for the benefit of the nation, or was it purely self-serving to cover up the wrong-doing of a particular company?

The closure of Petrotrin has had ripple effects throughout our entire country. The impacts on the economy and to employees and their families, have been devastating. Thousands of families have been on the breadline, as well as hundreds of contractors and service companies that all depended on work from Petrotrin.

Petrotrin workers affected by the closure were in excess of 6,000 inclusive of; direct staff, contracted staff and contractors with several downstream service providers. Of this quantity, at least 60% were sole breadwinners for their families. 

The financial impacts of these job losses have created a gross reduction in purchasing power and a decline in the standard of living for over 3,500 families.

This is mind boggling! Not to mention the psychological effects of being jobless together with the impacts on their families.  How are these men, women and single parents going to provide for their families?

Who will pay the mortgages and bills?

Undoubtedly, there now exists a part of this country that is a skeleton of its previous self. This fallout on the families has not been managed properly by the Government at all! This is what the Rowley-led Government has done today to the citizens of Pointe-A-Pierre. A constituency that may never recover. This is now their legacy!

Is this the caring government we voted in 6 years ago after they promised to look after our country’s economic welfare and our citizens? Do we really know how  this closure has affected these now vulnerable children of families where parents are still not able to afford school supplies, support extra-curricular and educational activities or even basic amenities? This has caused immense psychological strain among these children and what we have seen is a drop in academic performances and general happiness in this community.

Further, health plans that they were depending on to assist with medical expenses for their families have been affected, shut down and reduced. These families now have to face an expensive health care system or non-insurability because of their ages. This has caused further psychological impacts to the families.  

We have experienced one of our highest unemployment rates since the 1980s recession upon the closure of Petrotrin under this Rowley Government.

The highly skilled to unskilled have now become victims of unemployment; Geologists, engineers, accountants, HSSE professionals, lawyers, operators, technicians, mechanics, pipe fitters, labourers, janitors… the list goes on and on.

Unemployment also extended to contract services and sub-contractors as well. This has had a downward impact as the GDP reduction continues to spiral down, as production power is reduced and importation bills get instantly higher. The forex also was affected during the transition as Heritage was faced with vandalism and low production. 

Businesses in Marabella, Pointe-A-Pierre and Gasparillo have suffered severe losses. Supermarkets, bars, boutiques, recreation and sports clubs… so many establishments have gone out of business.

Many contract services associated with the refinery and Petrotrin are no longer in business and had to retrench staff as well as down tools. Assets left in disrepair are now ageing and not being maintained, hence huge depreciation in values.

For instance, valuable real estate in Pointe-a-Pierre inclusive of Golf Course, Facilities and Clubs are now in dire need of renovation due to no maintenance during transition. Data and intelligence from Petrotrin inclusive of datasheets, reports, drawings, procedures, checklists are no longer available and are lost or missing.

This is extremely expensive and timely to recreate and just gives us a small insight into the enormous void we will experience in restarting the refinery. While some employees (less than 30%) were rehired in Heritage, unemployment still soars in this community. 

Many  questions still remain unanswered: 

Was the closure of Petrotrin actually more effective than restructuring it?

Was the closure a deal to satisfy the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union by selling the refinery to them? 

Was closing Petrotrin a cover-up for the drilling company scandal, so information could go missing and hence weaken the case against them? 

If the objective was to have a more efficient company without political interference, then why was the Espinet-led Board dissolved? 

Is it that Espinet was not dancing to the tunes of the government?

No answers were given to the population before the last general election. We are still not convinced as to the root cause of the closure when we weigh the effects on people and country. Was it worth all this joblessness, the suffering, and the devastating effect in our energy sector, all for a massive cover-up?  Will we ever have the answers now that the Government has gotten rid of the OWTU or should I say Patriotic Energy and Technologies Company who will never step foot in Petrotrin again.

We ask for these questions to be answered.

Vol. 1, Issue 2