Scrap iron dealers to Government – Deal with choking bureaucracy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Scrap Iron Dealers Association president Alan Ferguson, centre, flanked by vice president Erros Seejattan, left, and secretary Willetta Wilson as they spoke with reporters in Port of Spain on Thursday. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

PRESIDENT of the Scrap Iron Dealers Association Allan Ferguson is calling on Government to alleviate the bureaucracy in the industry.

He spoke with reporters on Thursday outside Nicholas Towers in Port of Spain after meeting with officials from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Ferguson said although line minister Paula Gopee-Scoon was not present, the meeting with the assistant permanent secretary was fruitful. Next month will mark one year since the reopening of the industry.

It was shut down by Government in 2022 after a string of thefts of overhead copper wires installed by various utility providers across the nation, steel manhole covers on pavements, WASA’s copper pipe fitting and even a church’s bell. The thefts left people in some areas without internet and landline connections.

Last February, the Scrap Metal Act, 2022 was partially proclaimed allowing dealers to resume operations and to export scrap iron “upon application for and receipt of an export licence.” However, dealers remained restricted from exporting copper.

With many of those scrap yard and export licenses soon up for renewal, Ferguson said he hopes the ministry could help dealers navigate the process which includes at least two other state agencies.

“The extension for the scrap yards licence is up (for renewal) on the 14th of next month. We discussed…what we have to do now and what will come up with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and Town and Country and that we hope it will not be a drawn out process to try to get the licence.”

He expressed reservations about the speed of the renewal process.

“You know with Town and Country how long it does take to get things done there? Also, you know the EMA how long it does take to get things done there?”

Ferguson said the ministry is supposed to meet with the other stakeholders to advocate on the association’s behalf.

He said the association will also ask for meetings with EMA and Town and Country as it is in the dealers’ best interest to ensure the process is as fast and smooth as possible.

“We also will be asking for a meeting for our members so we can go through this process faster, because right now, how it is in our industry, I think it’s taking too much time to do a lot of exporting and it’s costing us a lot of money. If we don’t try to fix the issues we have, it could cost the association and the industry a lot of pain.”

Ferguson said they were given assurances by the ministry that they can begin the renewal application process. He said however, the ministry could provide no assurances about extending the licenses if the process took longer than expected.

“If it don’t work out on time, well then they will ask (for) an extension, but they cannot say we would get the extension at the moment because (the ministry) cannot give such an extension. It’s for the Attorney General and the Minister of National Security. When they sit and know what they’re doing, they will decide it.”

Ferguson said current regulations were also discussed at the meeting on Thursday as dealers believe paperwork requirements are too onerous and prevents them from operating efficiently.

“Every transaction we make we have to furnish them with the documents. Sometimes we had to carry boxes of documents to the ministry. They had to go through that and it is a long process.”

He said delays in processing the paperwork was detrimental to businesses and wants Government to review the legislation.

“There’s no industry in Trinidad and Tobago where you sell this week and you have to wait next month again to sell. And whilst we wait in that whole month to sell, we make nothing. And we have to pay workers, we have to pay all our bills.

“We went through the whole channel, we gave the industry time to work on this new legislation, we gave them the time and now it’s time we look at it, we are seeing it cannot work. We need to sit down with them and try to work out how to fix it.”