COP Leader says Government is now looking to legitimise Paria Trading Operations

Political Leader of the Congress of the People (COP), Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, is of the view that the Government and members of the Board of Paria Trading have no qualms in operating outside of the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago.  Almost five (5) months after the closure of Petrotrin, the Government is now seeking to legitimize the operations of Paria through the passage of the Miscellaneous Provisions (Petroleum, Petroleum Production Levy and Subsidy and Income Tax) Bill, 2019, which is expected to commence debate today in the Lower House.

Almost eight (8) months ago, the Government was warned that in accordance with the Production Levy and Subsidy Act, the subsidy cannot be determined and paid on the basis of the price of imported fuel. The Act specifically speaks to an ex-refinery price which is determined by a prescribed method set out in the law and is one of the inputs into the formula used to compute the subsidy also set out in the law.   Therefore, the Government may wish to inform the nation as to how subsidy payments to Paria were being disbursed  out of the public purse when there was no legal basis for so doing.   

Furthermore, in accordance with s 9 (1) of this Act, a petroleum production levy, as computed by the method prescribed in s 11, is charged to each crude oil producer and deposited in the subsidy fund to offset the disbursements from the public purse.  Given that there was no legal basis for the computation of subsidy, one can only assume that this income in the form of production levy was either lost to the state or illegally obtained.

In addition , the Petroleum Act and the Petroleum Regulations outline a number of licensing regimes to govern the various types of operations in the energy sector including Exploration , Production, Refining, Marketing Wholesale, Retail, Distribution and Storage.  Which Licensing regime has been granted to Paria and, if any, what are the terms and conditions of that license.  A closer perusal of the Act and the Regulations reveals that none of  the existing regimes is applicable to the new type of business being undertaken by Paria, that is, the “trading business.”   In keeping with the objectives of the law to ensure that at all times the sector adheres to safe and proper procedures, it is incumbent upon the Government to amend the law to include a licensing regime with the requisite terms and conditions for the “trading business.”  The current bill before the Parliament makes no provision for any such licence. 

Once again it is important to remind the Government that the spirit of the law dictates that the operations of the sector be open and transparent in accordance with the principles of good governance.