Fuel suppliers demand up front payment

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - 05:30

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