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T&T at risk if fuel subsidy is removed

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The fuel subsidy was originally intended for all our citizens to derive some little benefit from our petroleum windfall, especially in the area of gasoline and cooking gas, and not for a chosen few to defraud our nation.The gas subsidy is good and is intended to encourage industry and a better quality of life for the citizens of our country. Unfortunately, corruption of the subsidy has become a drain on our treasury and is threatening our citizens, who will be forced to pay the full price penalty of Government incompetence. The fuel corruption can be remedied if simple steps are followed. This non-governmental organisation has in previous correspondences outlined simple ABC steps that will stop the corruption, create transparency and save possibly billions lost through the official and slippery fingers of corruption.The fraud is occurring when the subsidised fuel is exported to unauthorised users or other countries, and to those who are operating in the energy sector. T&T, unlike Nigeria, does not have any neighbouring countries accessible by land, so if the fuel is to be sold elsewhere, it must be transported either by air or by sea. It is widely reported and known that several oceanic vessels (including shrimp trawlers) are now in the business of transporting fuel, which is sold to them in unlimited, unrecorded quantities by the pump (at the subsidised price).

There are many unanswered questions, and almost no transparency:
1) Are some public officials benefiting from this corruption?
2) Of the total value of the subsidy, how much of it is consumed in natural gas, and if this is merely a small percentage, then why is the Government preparing to increase the price of the natural gas?
3) How much of the subsidy does gasoline consume, and do marine vessels use gasoline?
4) Is there any potential market for the export of gasoline, especially when marine ports do not sell quantities of gasoline?
5) Is it not true that as much as 50 per cent of the subsidy goes to diesel sold at the waterfront?
6) If there is civil service and stakeholder corruption in the sale of diesel, then why should users of gasoline and natural gas be forced to face the consequences?
7) Is it not wiser that Government move to stop the corruption by implementing simple ABC steps?
8) Years and years have passed since this fraud on our people was discovered, so why has no visible action been taken?
We the public have a right to know.
There are many informed and concerned citizens who have a lot to contribute. We suggest that reform start at the level of dealing with the unauthorised sale of diesel and then gradual removal of the subsidy can occur with the monies saved being placed in a Development Fund for projects to improve health and education with legislation to ensure that no monies from the saved subsidy can be used by any future Government for any other purpose.
Without any further delay, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea urges our Government to hold a single venue public consultation so that informed stakeholders can discuss freely and contribute to this very critical developmental issue.
Gary Aboud
Corporate secretary
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea


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