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Tuesday, October 17 2017 @ 12:52 PM AST

Conversations with PM not very forward-looking

'Conversations with the Prime Minister' in Point Fortin last month were not very forward-looking, business and energy sector consultants said July 12 in reaction to the live, televised event July 11. In telephone interviews, they said the topics of the future remained either untouched or glossed over: the nation's youth, diversification and renewable energy.

"It is good that you have regular conversations with the population," Couva/Point Lisas-based business consultant Jai Leladharsingh said. However, he added: "I don't think the prime minister addressed the issue of economic diversification well. Trinidad and Tobago has the potential to enhance its sectors, for example: agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, information technology (IT), and of course, services - both financial and other types. We need to build the sectors that could generate foreign exchange."

He said the forum did not suitably engage young people either. "More imagination needs to be put into these types of forums because the prime minister (needs to) have national conversations with our youth, where he's sitting, not on a platform but on a stage with a lot of young people representative of T&T, discussing matters pertinent to them because youth are the future."

He said too that "matters relating to national security" should have been dealt with in greater depth. "I think he (Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley) should have a national conversation on security and crime because that's a big issue facing citizens," he added.

PETROTRIN TO SPLIT INTO THREE?

Rowley spoke at length in Point Fortin about oil and gas-related matters with Energy Minister Franklin Khan sharing the platform for the larger part of the discussion. Rowley reminded the audience that Cabinet will today (July 13) consider the government-ordered Petrotrin report for a decision on the way forward for the energy company.

"One of the big things governments have been talking about for years, is what to do with Petrotrin, so one of the main proposals that many people have made is to split it into different companies, and what I assume the report says is that the company should be split into an upstream onshore company, an upstream offshore company (Trinmar) and a refinery unit," Ramps Logistics Director Javed Razack said during an earlier interview at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Vice-president of the young-professionals T&T chapter of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Razack said: "That (splitting Petrotrin into three) may not be a good idea because you would be triplicating the shared services such as administration, information technology (IT), human resources (HR), and so on. Those kinds of services, when duplicated and triplicated, in a state-owned company, could result in hundreds of millions of dollars of wastage."

ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY

Razack also advocated a push for renewable energy, the fastest growing source of energy around the world, without focus on which, T&T could end up on the wrong side of history, because T&T's solution to everything remains "more oil and more gas!"

He said: "In T&T, you're looking at solar and wind. All the others are not feasible for various reasons. So solar and wind are the two majors for T&T. In fact, solar more than wind, because we have a lot of sun but for wind, you need plenty open space, which we don't really have. Now the National Energy Corporation (NEC) is planning to have a solar manufacturing plant, a multi-billion dollar project, which like everything else may never come off the ground."

He said: "We're far behind in terms of that." The natural gas, he said, now being used to supply the country with electricity could be re-directed. "So the idea behind renewable energy is, not just to go green for the environment, but you can take that eight per cent (of gas used on electricity) and instead of putting it into electricity, which is subsidised by the government and is a cost to the country, put it into the same high-value items like ammonia and methanol, and the kind of benefit you would see from that would be huge, because that is almost 10 per cent, and at the same time you can generate some of your electricity now from solar and wind, so there is a direct benefit for renewable energy actually propping up the oil and gas sector in that way."

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