We have an estimated eight years of gas and oil. Excuse me, based on the two recent finds this upped the ante by 10 per cent so we now have 8.8 years of gas and oil. How much longer do you think we can continue to sustain our large governmental expenditure re: salaries to public servants; gas subsidies; GATE payments etc on severely depleting resources? Additionally, with the new fracking drilling processes they have come up with, they have now discovered new finds of oil and gas in Canada, Mexico and US amongst other countries which would mean within the next four to five years that the US will be a net exporter of oil and gas.
One big market for our gas disappears, but the bigger threat is that our whole downstream industry—urea, methanol, and ammonia etc—will just disappear and relocate to the US where the price of oil and gas as an input to their production process will be much cheaper than it is in T&T. So we have diminishing gas and oil resources, as well as increasing competition for these wasting supplies…..what do we do? Clearly trying to produce more gas and oil is a good short-term measure but will not solve our long-term problem. Our economy is dependent on gas and oil and has to add other business models which will bring in several additional sources of revenue.
Now don’t get me wrong the private sector is every bit as guilty as the government in being dependent on the gas and oil sector. How many of them derive more than 50 per cent of their revenue from a foreign source? If you exclude the energy sector companies, they won’t be more than 10 per cent. We are, however, a very creative people in T&T and can find many solutions. Here is what I would recommend:
i. Shipbuilding: with the opening up of the enlarged Panama Canal, this would increase the ship cargo passing our shores by at least 30 per cent. All the best ship berthing facilities are in the Far East. Etienne Mendes has a proposal with all his external funding. This repair work will bring in revenue of US$2 billion a year and employ 2,000 people on completion.
ii. Cocoa cultivation: T&T has some of the highest grades of cocoa in the world. We currently produce about 700 tonnes per year. However, we have requests from Swiss chocolatiers for 36,000 tonnes.
At the current prices of the cocoa bean this can bring in significant revenues while also employing possibly an additional 25,000 people.