Are Gas Price Hikes Bad for T&T? | Local company

FOR what it’s worth, this column fully supports the government’s decision to raise the price of gasoline, despite the denial of political opportunists and leftist believers that manna from heaven still falls on the land mass of Trinidad.

While no one likes to pay more for anything, it is clear that the majority of the thinking population in this country realizes the following:

• The price of gasoline has increased in many countries around the world due to the sharp escalation in the price of crude oil, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting US and European sanctions;

• Gasoline subsidies mainly benefit the wealthy, many of whom drive big gas-guzzling SUVs;

• The preliminary estimate of the amount of money spent on transfers and grants in fiscal year 2021, according to last year’s Economic Review, was $27.24 billion. This means that 53.6% of every dollar spent in 2021 went to transfers and grants.

Clearly, given the temporary nature of the T&T crude oil and natural gas bonanza, the country simply cannot afford to continue allocating more than half of its total spending to transfers and subsidies.

Not when T&T’s debt-to-GDP ratio was 85% at the end of December 2021 and every dollar of unbudgeted spending must come either from borrowing, which would further increase the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio, or from withdrawals of funds from the Fund. heritage and stabilization;

• In his presentation of the 2022 budget, Finance Minister Colm Imbert spoke of the introduction of a utility payment card to enable low-income and vulnerable groups to access electricity subsidies and water.

Mr. Imbert continued: “A similar system will be extended to the same group of citizens with regard to the use of fuel during the liberalization of the fuel market. A Fuel Cash Card will be made available to vulnerable groups to offset the cost of fuel price increases. This charge card program will be administered by the Department of Public Services. »

The government is expected to work hard to implement the fuel payment card system as soon as possible;

• For those who are not part of low-income and vulnerable groups, sharp adjustments in their spending may be necessary.

I do not, however, support increasing the price of diesel, as it will add unnecessarily to the inflationary spike that T&T and many countries around the world are experiencing.

The proposed diesel price increase should be reviewed.

WHEN Guyana’s Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo said last month that T&T was “collapsing”, he may not have been right about the state of the economy, but about the small issues, like the board appointments, maybe he was onto something.

On Sunday, I was having a discussion on the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC), when the question of the chairman of the statutory body came up.

A quick Google search revealed the following in the July-December 2020 edition of T&TEC’s “Watts Happening” magazine:

“Mr. Romney Thomas, attorney, is the new Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Electricity Commission of Trinidad and Tobago.

“His appointment is effective from January 1, 2021 and ends on December 9, 2021, at the same time as the current Board of Commissioners.

“Mr. Thomas replaced Mr. Keith Sirju, former Chairman, who resigned on December 31, 2020.”

The average person reading these three sentences would conclude two things:

• That the process of appointing a chairman for the T&TEC board went smoothly between Mr. Sirju and Mr. Romney as the former office resigned at the end of 2020 and that the latter took his functions at the beginning of 2021;

• That the process for appointing a T&TEC board of directors appears to have collapsed more recently, with the previous board having resigned on December 9, 2021 and there has been, as of Monday evening (April 11), no sign of a new advice.

How could an entity as important as T&TEC not have a board for even one day, but alone for four months?

How could the Cabinet allow T&TEC to continue without advice for almost two months after the incident of February 16, 2022, during which most of Trinidad was without electricity for almost 12 hours?

Have major capital expenditure projects, new initiatives, business/strategic plans or the repayment of T&TEC’s huge debt to the 100% state-owned national gas company been delayed due to the delay in appointment of the board of directors of T&TEC?

In hindsight, was it appropriate that the government asked Keith Sirju, who was chairman of T&TEC from December 2015 to December 2020, to be part of the team of three specialists “to thoroughly investigate and determine the causes and the national response to , the national blackout that occurred on February 16, 2022?

Mr. Sirju, who is one of the most respected structural engineers in this country, did he have the required independence from T&TEC, having been its president for five years?

On Monday, T&TEC’s head of corporate communications, Annabelle Brasnell, was asked to confirm whether T&TEC has been without a fully constituted board since December 9, 2021, a period of four months and also how the absence of a board affects- it the Commission’s operations, especially at a time when the investigation into the major incident is underway.

His response was: “I can confirm that the term of the last Board of Commissioners expired on December 9, 2021.

“The cabinet recently approved the selection of members of the new board of directors and the deeds of appointment are currently being prepared by the office of the president. As such, new appointments are imminent.

“In relation to the conduct of the investigation into the major incident which has just been completed, the Commission’s management team has provided all information requested by the team of independent investigators. “

Let’s see how long the “imminent” appointment of the new T&TEC board will take.

This is not the first time that the Express Business publication has had reason to question the delay in appointing important boards.

In the September 9, 2020 edition of this magazine, it was pointed out that the mandate of the board of directors of the Trinidad and Tobago Securities and Exchange Commission (TTSEC), which was chaired by senior counsel Douglas Mendes , had expired on April 24, 2020.

A new board, chaired by a senior civil servant, Enid Zepherine, was only appointed on December 18, 2020. This means that it took more than eight months for the Ministry of Finance to appoint the TTSEC board.

By the way, according to the T&T Gazette, Gerry Brooks’ term as Chairman of the Board of Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation, expired on March 10, 2022.