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THE PETROTRIN DILEMMA by Tony Bedassie

posted 2 Jul 2018, 14:47 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 2 Jul 2018, 14:52 ]
Tony Bedassie is a compressor technician employed with Petrotrin/Trinmar
Most of the problems associated with Petrotrin come from a lack of accountability and poor decisions by the board and management. What's happening at the refinery? Why is there so much overtime? Someone has to be responsible for that scenario. Is it absenteeism or is it due to not filling vacancies?

While this current board has embarked upon much needed cost cutting measures, it's apparent that the intent is not merely saving money. You cut costs: you do not starve an ongoing operation of vital inputs - Marine transportation for example.

Trinmar relies upon a prompt and efficient transportation network in order to be able to respond in a timely manner. A lack of vessels increases downtime of equipment. The result of which is a decrease in production.

Billions of dollars were spent at South West Soldado, an area of vast potential in terms of increasing production, yet the final infrastructure needed to monetise this was not done, that is, the attaching of flow lines. Who is responsible for this, certainly not the workers?

Need for modern day equipment is identified to replace some obsolete ones, dating back to the 60's and 70's. Equipment which parts can no longer be sourced for. Money was budgeted to purchase them but it was never done. Who is responsible for this? Certainly not the workers!

Time and time again we see square pegs in round holes: managers without any formal education being given the responsibilities of making important decisions for which they are not equipped.

How many of them understand the basic economic principles of running a business? Principles such as cost benefit analyses; return on investment; payback period and so on. Indeed, the hiring and promotion practices of all state enterprises leave a lot to be desired. It's always about cronyism, favouritism and victimisation. Political interference also topping the list of problems!

Now we are faced with the results of these combined negatives. We are faced with a compounding of ills spanning decades which has led to a good entity, becoming unprofitable. Where do we start?

The first thing to be attacked is always the workforce. Workers are always made to pay for the bad decisions of management. The WGTL plant remains a sore point for this organisation and a very expensive one. Workers had nothing to do with that decision.

So much money has been spent over the years on non essential services: a consultant for this, a contract for that, yet none of it adding to the bottom line; none of it adding to an increase in production. To conduct a forensic audit of this entity would require years if they really are to figure it out.

The easiest option it would seem would be to send people home and privatise the production and refining areas of the company. Privatisation however, comes with its own set of negatives. We were once privately owned. At that time, it was seen that most of our revenues earned were leaving the country. Texaco, Tesoro etc were the ones reaping the benefits of our natural resources resulting in a drain of our foreign exchange. So, we nationalised!

How has that worked out for us? What's our history with respect to state owned enterprises? Like in most countries with state enterprises such as ours rampant corruption and mismanagement occurs. It becomes a political feeding trough with jobs for the boys and contracts which add no value. We create layer upon layer of unnecessary administration until we reach the point where we are now no longer profitable but become part of government's social wage package. I always said that we were fast becoming another Caroni Ltd.

Yet this entity contributes significantly to the socio-economic position of our country: so many rely upon it for a living, both directly and indirectly - permanent and casual workers, contractors and contract workers. These workers in turn support the various businesses within our retail structure. These workers also become employers in their own right, employing tradesmen and service providers to build and maintain their homes, cars etc.

The challenges are immense. The ramifications of not acting are inconceivable while those of acting without weighing out the entire picture are even more so. The social impact of shutting down, privatising etc will be significant at a time when the state has declared its intent to steer the population away from reliance upon the government as sole provider.

Cuts to social spending continue daily. Increases in taxation, reductions in subsides etc means less disposable income in the hands of the average citizen. Further reductions of same would result in more and more people becoming reliant upon government's social wage package for their mere survival.

One cannot simply take apart such a major contributor to the domestic economy without providing viable alternatives. The social impact will be unbearable. Crime and social unrest will sky rocket. Negative growth will double and quadruple. Our dollar will have to be devalued further.

We have long bandied about talk of diversification to no avail. We remain an economy reliant upon oil and gas, with a bunch of consumers whose spending is what keeps the domestic economy afloat. Take that away and what are we left with? Something needs to be done but it will take true visionaries and patriots to take us out of the position we are in.
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