OWTU appeals to PM, Imbert: Have a heart

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

OWTU President General Ancel Roget. File photo/Angelo Marcelle

THE Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) is calling on the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Colm Imbert to not implement planned fuel price increases on April 19, and for citizens to protest against them.

While acknowledging the negative effect the increases will have on the population, Imbert maintained this was the best decision Government could take, given Trinidad and Tobago’s current economic challenges.

Addressing a news conference at the union’s Paramount Building in San Fernando on Tuesday, Roget said, “If ever there was a worse time for this (fuel price increase) it’s now. Now could never be a good time to raise the cost of fuel in this country.”

Roget appealed to Dr Rowley and Imbert “to have a a heart and to reverse this decision.”

He said fuel prices could not be increased with many citizens and businesses still dealing with the socio-economic effects of the covid19 pandemic.

Roget added that while the prices of many good and services have increased in TT, the minimum wage remains rooted at $17.50 per hour.

He observed that in a Caricom country such as Barbados (where fuel prices were also increased), the minimum wage is currently $29.11 per hour.

“It is time for the suffering masses to stand up in defence of themselves.”

Roget agreed with calls from the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) and other groups for people to protest against the increases in the price of fuel. The OWTU, he continued, was prepared to join with other groups expressing positions similar to its own on this matter. “We will be part of that.” The MSJ has planned to stage a public march in Port of Spain on April 22 to protest against the fuel price increases.

Roget was amazed that some people would waste their time complaining about irrelevant things like increasing the price of condiments at certain fast food establishments, but ignore more important issues like fuel prices. While this was happening, Roget said it was business as usual for the Government and its supporters.

“They are fixing their business right now.”

In a tweet, Imbert said, “Increases in the price of gas are never easy to absorb, but it is important to note that the price of gas in TT is the second lowest out of 13 Caribbean countries in 2022. He also observed that diesel in the United States is currently $9.13 per litre compared to the current $3.41 per litre price in TT.

In the House of Representatives on Friday, Imbert said the gasoline prices in Barbados and Jamaica were $10.32 and $10.40 per litre respectively.

He said Government will have to pay approximately $1.69 billion from tax revenues to maintain the fuel subsidy.

“This level of subsidy is unbudgeted and unsustainable.”

Noting there were competing demands for scarce resources in TT, Imbert said this $1.69 billion could be far better utilised for things like expenditure in the social services and health sectors, the capital development programme, on VAT refunds, and clearing off unpaid bills owed to contractors and suppliers of goods and services.

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Current fuel pricess per litre, for premium gasoline, super gasoline and diesel are $5.75, $4.97 and $3.41 respectively.

On April 19 those prices per litre will be $6.75, $5.97 and $3.91 respectively.