T&T’s debt-to-GDP ratio is decreasing, energy exports are increasing and natural gas production is on the upswing, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced in the second part of his address to the nation broadcast on Monday night.
“That is called getting the job done,” he said.
Continuing with a presentation loaded with data, Rowley compared the situation in T&T to other oil-rich nations when commodity prices collapsed. He said while countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Nigeria increased taxes and cut back on social services, that had not been the case in T&T.
“We have not collapsed and hell is not our fortune. We have done reasonably well,” he said, noting that VAT had been reduced, the tax-free allowance to individuals had been increased, along with grants and social services.
On the issue of Petrotrin, Rowley said it was one of the few oil companies in the world owned by the people and up to the time of Government’s intervention was saddled with $13 billion in debt.
He said 100,000 barrels of oil a day was being imported to keep the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery going and was being paid for in a debt arrangement in which the company incurred daily losses of between US$4 and US$7 per barrel.
He said the forecast was for $2 billion in losses every year going forward. Between 2014 and 2018 Petrotrin suffered $8.8 billion in losses.
“An oil company is not to cost you money, it is to make money for you,” he said.
Rowley said in the restructured arrangement, Heritage Petroleum Company will service the debt owed by Petrotrin, leaving more money for the Minister of Finance to do other things.
According to the Prime Minister, while in 2016/17 his administration set about to reduce the fuel subsidy, it is still costing the country almost $1 billion.
Rowley, who declared that T&T will not go the IMF, said Government’s strategy is to become more efficient, by cutting out corruption and waste.
He said savings of $1.26 billion had been achieved by re-tendering on some major projects, including the Cumuto highway which was reduced from $550 million through open transparent tender to $400 million and the Curepe flyover which went from $412 million down to $221 million.
Rowley said going forward in addition to upstream energy sector projects, Government has embarked on a programme for diversification of the economy. He identified the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate, the La Brea Dry Docking Facility, Aripo Agriculture Programme and the agro processing plant being developed in Moruga as some of the projects that will drive the diversification thrust.
He also identified transport projects and programmes, including completion of the Point Fortin Highway, Valencia to Toco road expansion, Toco port and the highway extension to Manzanilla.
He said in the plan to link Trinidad and Tobago through Toco, the intention is for the Galleons Passage to eventually operate on that sea route.