PM defends his decision to seek business from Indian investors

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PM defends his decision to seek business from Indian investors

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will not be stopped in his efforts to attract investors for this country and said he would press ahead despite the naysayers.

Addressing a party fund-raiser at the Hyatt Regency (Trinidad) hotel in Port of Spain yesterday, titled Breakfast with the Prime Minister, Rowley defended his decision to seek business from Indian investors.

“There has not been a single initiative in this country of any consequence which has been advanced by the PNM which has not been resisted by a fraction of the population, whether it was PAYE, free education, UTC, NIB.”

The PM’s statements come in the wake of calls from the Opposition asking him to explain why he met with Indian billionaire Naveen Jindal, who is facing corruption charges in India.

He and Jindal, chairman of Jindal Steel and Power, met last Monday in relation to his (Jindal’s) interest in the former Petrotrin refinery.

The Prime Minister—who acknowledged the presence of two groups of people from India—one group of businessmen who were part of an investment mission and another group from Haryana, stated: “There seems to be an attempt to dissuade foreigners from investing in Trinidad and Tobago. Interestingly, it is coming from the same people who would say from time to time, there is not enough direct foreign investment, (and that) one of the failures of the Government is that it needs more direct foreign investment and we not getting it. And, lo and behold, we now have the potential for foreign investment from a place where there are people who want to invest abroad and we are investing abroad. And we (the Government) are saying if you are investing in Oman and Qatar and Dubai and Spain and wherever you are, consider Trinidad and Tobago. And that seems to be upsetting some people.”

The Prime Minister said the Government had to close down the country’s refinery because it threatened to bankrupt the country.

“We have a refinery which has not been operating since 2018 and we said from day one, it’s available to the world if there is anybody or any agency who would like to use it, if you have oil and you want to operate a refinery, there is one in Trinidad and Tobago that the Government is not operating. I can tell you at this point in time, after how many years of trying and trying and trying we do have some possible expression of interest. I don’t know what the expression is because we have not yet looked at the expression. But what we have are people saying to us, we think we are interested. So for the first time, we have some people of worth who are saying that. When we open their proposals we will know what their proposals are,” the Prime Minister stated.

He said when the Government looked at India’s progress, it found that although diplomatically, culturally and historically Trinidad and Tobago and India were close, they did not have strong commercial connections.

“That is why we extend a very special welcome to this business group from India. And it is for the local business community to take advantage of what the Government has initiated because the Government would hardly be the investor to invest with them. It is you, the business community. We have opened these doors for you. You need to take advantage of that,” he said.

On the Dragon Gas deal the Prime Minister said: “If the Dragon gas does not come next year or the year after, at least our children have a 30-year contract sometime in the future to access the gas from Venezuela across the border.”

On Government being able to get Venezuela’s agreement to develop the gas from the Manatee field, the Prime Minister said: “We had not been able in 15 years to move that conversation largely because the Venezuelans always feel that the Loran gas could go to Guiria to create some kind of Point Lisas…But we eventually encouraged the Venezuelans to allow us, who have seen our production of gas per day fall from 4.2 billion cubic feet to 2.6 billion and need gas to maintain that kind of production, the Venezuelans have agreed, and we have signed off, to allow us to extract our gas from Manatee on our side. That is not normally done…If for 15 years we didn’t make any movement and in this year we are able to say it has been sanctioned, the money is flowing, the Manatee gas would be on its way, isn’t that progress?” the Prime Minister asked.