On January 9th last year, the oil workers’ union, the OWTU, was holding the country to ransom with a planned all out strike at Petrotrin. The Government caved in almost as soon as the strike started.
With clockwork accuracy, the OWTU is back on the same path again, this time threatening industrial action over what are yet to be disclosed plans by the Government to restructure Petrotrin. However, common sense dictates that a dispute can only arise once you know what the proposals are, not beforehand.
The OWTU’s president, Mr Ancel Roget, may think that again he has the Government right where he wants it, given how precarious public accounts and foreign reserves are, thus limiting its ability to stomach a strike.
If that is the case, he ought to think his tactics carefully as, given the perilous state of our economy, instead of just frightening the owner of the golden goose he may end up killing the goose for good, with devastating consequences.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s comments on CNC3 that he may introduce more direct control on foreign currency distribution by banks is understandable but concerning. This suggests that the Government sees no end in sight to the worrying gap between hard currency earned and hard currency spent.
The dilemma is a real one, though. A more interventionist approach to how banks use their forex quotas may make sense if we all accept we are in a tight financial spot. However, as a basic rule, the more governments meddle with the markets, the more usually goes wrong. And with increased risks of corruption to boot.
It’s good to see that more former Caroni (1975) workers have (finally) received their land leases as per the original plans when the sugar company was effectively closed down in 2003. Some have received residential plots whilst others received agricultural land leases. The Government ought to make sure the land will be used for such purposes.
The way the sugar industry in T&T was mismanaged is hardly a proud moment in our history but perhaps even more absurd is how vast tracts of arable land were left without crops and unproductive. This can be reverted by distributing further land to those genuinely interested in growing crops where sugar cane ruled decades ago.