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NATIONAL INTEREST NOWHERE IN SIGHT

Published: 
Sunday, April 16, 2017

Our continuing failure to achieve a measure of working unity in the best interest of all the groups in this plural society is having a disastrous effect in these times of economic, financial and social distress and political antagonisms. Contributing to the latter are our racial and social-class fears, divisions, and insecurities.

If bpTT’s original intent was to have its Angelin platform fabricated abroad, we, through our industrial relations culture of aggravated antagonism, the inefficiencies of government and the political pulling and tugging based on race and party fanaticism facilitated that desire of the multinational corporation to take the fabrication of the platform abroad.

Aware of the political inefficiencies, the internal conflict lodged in our industrial relations, and the weaknesses of the political system, bpTT could say with conviction that “given the compressed project timeliness and other competitiveness factors for the Angelin project, local fabrication is no longer a feasible option.”

Our pitiful condition, rising out of the weaknesses of our governance systems and culture of conflict, is best illustrated by the unavailing flailing in the wind of Ancel Roget, president general of what is usually described as the “most militant and powerful” trade union, the OWTU: “Take your platform and go.”

Well, bpTT has done so, and in doing so has left us with the responsibility for the decision to deprive the economy collectively of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, contracts for local fabricating and service companies, even the doubles vendor at the gate of the industrial plant, and revenue for the state, inclusive of hard currency, so badly needed at this time.

However, the multinational has not left us without what I consider a warning: “Although the Angelin platform will not be fabricated in Trinidad, bpTT is committed to maintaining an option of fabrication in-country for future platforms, and will be working with local service providers on key competitiveness factors such as productivity.”

One conclusion to be drawn from that statement is that if we continue with our separateness and indiscipline, bpTT will continue on the road of not utilising to its fullest capacity, our fabricating skills and industry.

Not too incidentally, I continue to use this plural all-inclusive “we” to illustrate my point that whether or not there are individuals and groups who see themselves outside of the conflict zone, we, all of us are nevertheless affected.

What this possible loss of platform fabricating contracts will do is to end or badly damage our efforts to develop the capacity and reputation for being an industrial site that can efficiently and effectively do the job and so sell our services here and abroad.

As to who is to blame for T&T not being selected to fabricate the Angelin platform, the opposition United National Congress places responsibility on the government of the People’s National Movement for failing to bring the agreement with bpTT to an efficient and timely conclusion within the first six months of its term; the argument being that if this had been done, bpTT could not contend that time was too short to fabricate the platform here.

Conversely, the PNM says that the UNC failed to start the negotiations with bpTT for the gas contract when it was in office up to September 2015. More than that, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told I 95.5 interviewers that the decision of bpTT to fabricate Angelin abroad was made during the 2013 massive industrial conflict that seriously delayed the construction of Juniper.

Then, bpTT took the Juniper platform abroad to be finished.

Various chambers of commerce have tagged the OWTU for the conflicts experienced during Juniper’s construction. Roget has responded by claiming that bpTT broke the industrial rules of the country.

Therein lies the conflict between and among capital and labour, foreign and local, political parties contending against each other and nowhere in sight is the national interest.

The average national, even commentators such as this one, does not have a complete grasp of the full information, a comprehensive understanding, and the implications of all that is involved when everyone is perceiving and contending through narrow self-interests.

As could be expected, bpTT’s main loyalty and concern in all of this is to its shareholders and to the operations of the company internationally. That is understandable and the accepted wisdom. However, bpTT should be made mindful of the fact that T&T is an absolute shareholder in its operations.

The resources in the ground are the natural patrimony of this and future generations. Multinational corporations are partners in getting the resources out of the ground, and processing and marketing those resources abroad. Historically, however, such corporations have been the dominant partner while the host country, the owner of the resources, gets the minor share of the profits.

What T&T is to be concerned about is the lack of appreciation and acknowledgement of our history, development, and the critical roles played by all of the ethnic, social, political, religious, cultural segments of the population in where we have got to since arrivals through slavery, indentureship, the coming of plantation owners and merchants, and the more recent migrants who have come here.

Without such an appreciation of and a commitment to making that history work for us, another energy boom will come and go, and when the resources are once again wasted, we shall return to a time such as the present.

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