The impending closure of Petrotrin has virtually captured the major part of our national debate in a swift and serious way. Many commentators seem to have taken strong stances in which their loyalties are displayed and there is a distinct lack of the basic facts.
This is no essay on the oil & gas aspects of the Petrotrin closure as those are areas outside my understanding. In this article, I will examine three of the most serious governance issues now emerging as this seemingly-unstoppable process rolls onward.
The issues I will be delving into are:
the information asymmetry on display here;
the enhanced offer to workers and finally,
the issues arising in relation to Petrotrin’s huge land-holdings.
Two significant events in the previous week heralded a fresh round of Board Games, as we strive for higher standards of governance and accountability in our State Enterprises.
The first of those events was the Privy Council ruling on Monday 19th February 2018, in the case which eTeck brought in 2011 against its former Board, chaired by Professor Ken Julien, related to alleged negligence for a US$5M investment gone awry.
The second event was the publication of Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index on Wednesday 21 February 2018, in which T&T improved its score from 35 to 41 and moved up the scale from 101st out of 176 countries in 2016 to 77th out of 180 countries in 2017. The average country score in the 2017 CPI was 43, so T&T is still below average, but the improvement in that perception has already been welcomed by the current administration.
One of the major issues facing the country as this recession unfolds is the pressing need to review the State Enterprise sector. A Cabinet-appointed committee, chaired by Dr Terrence Farrell, was established to examine the SOE sector, but we have no idea yet as to their recommendations.
One of the hugest State Enterprises is Petrotrin, a major player in the national economy, with the immense influence of the OWTU on the side of its workers. A great deal of discussion is now emerging on whether or how Petrotrin could be restructured or privatised.