State-owned Paria Fuel Trading Company could be on a collision course with the Government and State-enterprise National Petroleum Marketing Company Limited as it is insisting it must get timely payments from the Ministry of Finance for the fuel subsidy and wants NP to pay for its fuel on time.
The company’s chairman Wilfred Espinet told Guardian Media that it is a struggle to get the Government and its representatives to understand that it has to pay its bills on time because Paria and the other companies that have emerged from the closure of Petrotrin, must be run as a business and be profitable.
“It is a fight to make the Government understand that it has to pay its bills and it must pay them on time. When you go to the Ministry of Finance they do not really care that you have workers to pay, all they say is that your cheque is not ready. We cannot do business in this way, and while there are ways we can deal with this in terms of not paying government monies we owe to them, we don’t want to make this thing so messy.” Espinet told the Guardian Media in a telephone interview on Monday.
Espinet said Paria had to pay in advance for the fuel it was importing and needs to have its money returned in a timely manner.
He said, “Before the fuel is even loaded, we have to pay for it, and the Ministry of Finance cannot expect to pay when it wants because this is a commercial enterprise. At the end of the day, the decision to keep a limited fuel subsidy is a political decision, and we are not responsible for that. Therefore, it is for the Government to pay and we expect payment on a quarterly basis.”
The end of this month should mark the first quarter that Paria has been providing fuel to the country since the closure of the Point-a-Pierre Refinery. Espinet said the government gave the board a broad mandate with the central issue being to run the business in such a way that it is profitable.
With the closure of Petrotrin all the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel are imported into the country by Paria and then sold to NP and UNIPET. Both UNIPET and NP are expected to pay for their fuel and then retail it within the margins set by the State.
The Government has, however, been carrying a fuel subsidy, mainly on diesel fuel, and in the past, the payment of the fuel subsidy has been a major source of contention between the former Petrotrin and the Ministry of Finance, with the Ministry notoriously late on its payment to the point where at the time the government was making a case for the closure of Petrotrin it owed the company hundreds of millions of dollars.
Espinet told the Guardian that the Board was committed to operating the company as a commercial enterprise and complained that Board had to deal with the challenge of politicians trying to get it to continue to pay for services that Petrotrin was providing and for which they have no business being a part of. He warned that the time was coming when the cost will be quantified, and someone else asked to pay for it.
“Petrotrin used to pay for water and electricity for communities in South; it was maintaining playing fields and so on. It is a fight to tell the MPs in those areas that we cannot afford to continue doing it. But while we have not yet stopped offering the services, it must be quantified, and someone else will have to pay the bill.” Espinet revealed.
Espinet said the Board wanted to run the company as a publicly traded enterprise and not necessary as a State enterprise.
- by Curtis Williams