Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Renuka Singh

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is dismissing all calls from the Opposition that he resign over the collapse of the Petrotrin refinery sale to Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Ltd.

This is because it was Patriotric who failed to meet the “business milestones” which needed to be met to fulfill its end of the deal.

In a brief exchange with Guardian Media yesterday, following the Government’s announcement that Patriotic’s latest bid had been rejected, the Prime Minister questioned Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s standing to even make such a call.

“What’s she drinking these days?” Rowley asked.

“Must be the new brand I heard of, Its called ILLOGICAL by Desperation.”

He added, “So a buyer can’t find the money to pay for something that is to be purchased, therefore, I ( representing the seller), must resign.

“You know what that “logic” is saying? It can only be saying that the Government should have concluded the sale even though the buyer can’t pay for the item.”

The Prime Minister said that had the Government done that, “this same irrelevant woman would have been out front, leading the charge, as the Government was being accused of being irresponsible.”

“In fact, even as Patriotic was the only (out of 73 initially interested parties) one who offered cash to purchase the refinery, even as Government accepted that offer price, so effectively set by the open market procurement process, this same irrelevant woman screeched that we were giving away the “crown jewel” which, according to her, “is worth billions.” How she arrived at that conclusion, only she and her handlers know,” Rowley said.

He said it was ironic now for the Opposition to be so aghast at the collapse of the deal, when they never wanted the refinery sold to Patriotic in the first place.

“However, they went on to state openly that they oppose the attempted sale and they would stop it. So what in God’s name are they complaining about now?” Rowley asked.

Rather, he said the sale falling apart should please the Opposition.

“It did not happen, so all their foolish and undermining conspiracy theories (about Government being in bed with Roget) have now been shown to have and never had any merit,” the PM said.

The Prime Minister said at least his Government had tried to get something done.

“It was unsuccessful and disappointing for both buyer (Patriotic) and seller (Government) but certain business milestones just have to be met,” he said.

Rowley said that the restructuring of Petrotrin “was a huge mountain to climb.” 

“With profitable Heritage and Paria, we have done so successfully and we will continue with the same good sense, zeal and resolve as we strive to get the best for all the people of Trinidad and Tobago. It’s our duty and we have boundless faith in our destiny,” he said.

On November 30, 2018 Petrotrin was shuttered and the company separated into three entities – Heritage Petroleum, Paria Fuel Trading Company and Guaracara, which housed the refinery- under an umbrella holding company.

Former Petrotrin president Wilfred Espinet presided over that shutdown and yesterday said while he had no involvement in the sale deal, his “sense from public reaction was that the deal was not credible.”

“I assume that the conclusion supports this,” Espinet told Guardian Media.

Meanwhile, former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine questioned how Patriotic got as far as it did if it did not have the financial wherewithal to complete the sale.

“It is clear that they did not have the money needed. The Minister of Finance was very clear in explaining that. It’s also clear that the RBC letter was insufficient and was more a letter of intent rather than a letter of credit or a guarantee,” Ramnarine said.

“Given that they could not demonstrate they had the funding, the evaluation committee had no choice but to recommend the rejection of the proposal.

“It’s unfortunate that the country has wasted 14 months on this and while we wasted that time, the refinery continues to depreciate.”

Ramnarine said that in terms of going back out to market, he is struggling to see how the country would attract “serious companies with the deep pockets needed to acquire and restart the refinery.”  

“The world of 2021 is not the world of 2019. In the last 12 months, 17 refineries have closed down or are close to closing down. In this environment of COVID-19, there is less demand for jet fuel, gasoline, diesel and bunker fuel et cetera. So it’s bad time to sell a refinery,” Ramnarine said.

But all is not lost, according to Ramnarine.

“Things can, however, change as the world economy recovers and demand for transport fuels rebounds. There is an opportunity that is presenting itself down the road given the loss of refining capacity in Venezuela, Curacao and Aruba. There is room for a refinery in the Caribbean but that opportunity is not in 2021 but maybe 2022 or 2023,” he said.