PM: TT fuel prices can be reduced if global prices fall

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses government ministers and the media after his return from Barbados at the VIP Lounge, Piarco International Airport on Thursday. – Jeff K. Mayers

IF the international price of fuel decreases then the cost at the pumps in TT will also decrease the Prime Minister assured on Thursday.

While not indicating at what international price citizens will see this decrease, Dr Rowley assured that there will be a trickle-down effect.

“Yes, the trigger point will be made known to the population and if the price goes down, the same way we have raised it because of the subsidy, it is reasonable to expect that significantly, the price at the pumps will go down.

“That is something that we will do. Of course, they will say when the price goes up it goes up very quickly but it defies gravity when the price has to go down. These are things the market price will deal with.”

Asked about fishermen in particular, requesting financial assistance with the increase in diesel, Rowley said the increase to citizens is not the total increase for fuel and both the Government and the people are sharing the burden.

On April 8, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced an increase in fuel prices that took effect from April 19. Premium and super gasoline increased by $1 per litre to $6.75 and $5.97 respectively. Diesel increased by $0.50 to $3.91 per litre while kerosene will jump from $1.50 to $3.50 per litre.

“The Government is bearing a significant portion of the costs. And what is being protested is a portion of the cost. I think the conversation should make that clear. It is not that there have been a price increase to obtain the product and government is saying just pay it,” he said, adding that taxpayers will now bear 50 per cent of the increase.

The price of fuel is priced against international benchmarks, Rowley said adding that it is an international product, and to obtain it or sell it the price is established internationally. He said because of this if the government does not address the subsidy then there will be a greater price to pay in the future.

“I think it is reasonable, given the nature and state of the country’s ability, to finance these matters.”

He reminded the country that, once upon a time, people paid the full price for fuel and, with Cabinet approval, a subsidy was provided. He said the programme worked because an additional tax was placed on the oil companies and the additional revenue was used to pay the subsidy.

He said there was a time when a barrel of oil was US$3 and now it costs over 20 times that. He described the comments that because the country shut down its oil refinery Petrotrin that the country was facing higher fuel prices as “gobbledygook”

“If being a refiner is what would have kept your price down, why is the price sky-rocketing in America, which has so many refineries? Why are countries with no refineries not seeing the politicians walking up and down the street organising their future on gas prices?

“So I just ask the population to be reasonable. The reality is that the product costs more, and taxpayers are paying half of the costs and you the user are paying the other half.”