UNC slams PM over talk of gas price hike

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Senator Damian Lyder, left.

THE Opposition UNC condemned the Prime Minister on Thursday for hinting that people could be paying higher gasoline prices in the near future.

At a Conversations with the Prime Minister at the Bon Air West Community Centre on Tuesday, Dr Rowley said the current high prices of oil on the world market would not insulate Trinidad and Tobago, as the country has been importing crude oil to refine it for export.

Oil and gas prices have been fluctuating on the international market as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. On Thursday, Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude oil were trading at US$112 and U$109 per barrel respectively. Natural gas was trading at US$4.622 per mmbtu on Thursday.

Rowley said if government removes the subsidy, premium gasoline would go from $5.75 per litre to $7.58, super gasoline from $4.97 to $7.46 per litre, and diesel from $3.71 to $6.58 per litre.

“We will see how much funding we can find to take the pressure off the population, but they cannot be insulated completely. I don’t see the hike in oil prices as opening up volumes, because we are not producing the same levels as before.”

Addressing a news conference at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Port of Spain, Senator Damian Lyder claimed these statements by Rowley were evidence of Government seeking “to wage war on citizens.”

He was concerned that people could be paying double or more for gas. Lyder warned that any increase in gas prices could have a knock-on effect on other goods and services.

“We will see the cost of everything skyrocketing.”

Lyder recalled Rowley’s announcement of the relaxation of several covid19 restrictions in Parliament on March 4.

One measure was public transport being allowed to operate at 100 per cent capacity. Lyder said this move will benefit neither public-transport operators nor commuters if gasoline prices increase.

He warned that higher prices could also have the effect of businesses struggling to survive the covid19 pandemic’s impact being forced to close if the cost of goods and services increase.

“It will lead to unemployment. We are in a recession.”

Lyder and fellow Opposition Senator Wade Mark claimed this situation will be worsened if TT opens the floodgates to allow more skilled Caricom nationals to come to this country under the Caribbean Community Skilled Nationals (Amendment) Bill, 2022. Debate on this bill began in the Senate on Tuesday and continues there on March 15.

Mark reiterated claims that the bill will see Caricom nationals being able to vote in all elections in TT.

“This is voter-padding and house-padding and we reject this.”

He claimed the PNM was following strategies employed in the past by prime ministers Dr Eric Williams and Patrick Manning (both deceased).

Mark also reiterated his claim that Caricom nationals who are allowed to live and work in TT will deprive unemployed TT nationals of jobs.

“This is what we have a concern about.”