Thursday, August 17, 2017

Malcolm Jones/GTL saga far from over


THE Malcolm Jones/Gas-To-Liquids story was last week gaining new traction.
For the administration, which had closed its eyes to the $1.2 billion stain on Mr Jones’s energy-executive record, the heaviest hitter had to come out swinging.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley himself assumed the champion stance on the post-Cabinet platform, where he danced like a butterfly and stung like a bee.

Mr Jones had resigned from the Energy Steering Committee, but only the Express reported it, eight weeks later.
The Government had obviously wanted to keep it out of the news. Between April 8, when the Cabinet accepted the resignation, and last Thursday, ministers (Dr Rowley included) had addressed some 11 post-Cabinet sessions.

Opportunities had thus been passed up to announce, straightforwardly, this high-profile resignation. Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie had long stated the policy that material for the post-Cabinet news briefing would consist of Cabinet decisions. News of Mr Jones resignation had obviously been suppressed for reasons best known to the suppressors.

Chiding the media for not paying attention to when he said he had made public the resignation in March, Dr Rowley went on the offensive in disclosing the final Malcolm Jones exit .
He accused the Opposition, which had reopened in Parliament the Gas-To-Liquids fiasco, something directed from beginning to end by then-Petrotrin chairman Jones, of seeking to “persecute” Mr Jones.

They want, he charged, to get back at former prime minister Patrick Manning. That discreditable motivation had prompted the $102 million lawsuit brought against Mr Jones, under the Partnership administration, he claimed. The Prime Minister conceded that the Gas-To-Liquids debacle had been “horribly bad”, and had resulted in a “spectacular failure”.

But in business, these things happen, he said, implying that nobody in particular is to blame.
Under Mr Jones’s leadership, State-owned Petrotrin had over four years thrown into GTL ever more good money after bad.
Petrotrin was outsmarted by its joint-venture partner. That US partner proved neither to have the capital, nor the technology to turn natural gas into marketable hydrocarbon liquids.
Time came for a big capital injection. Only Petrotrin came up with the money, having borrowed it from Credit Suisse, worsening the debt liability of this State enterprise.

All of this, Dr Rowley argued, was to be regarded a mere blemish on Mr Jones’s distinguished record as an energy sector “pioneer”, with other successes to his name.
Still, the GTL blame attached to Mr Jones did not all derive from clear political spite. While the Partnership administration sought to make him pay, the OWTU demonstrated outside his gate, demanding:

“Malcolm Jones must make a jail.”
Short weeks after that demonstration, Mr Jones quit the steering committee. Dr Rowley spun and danced, attributing the resignation to unspecified “serious challenges”. But he is unlikely to have stung the Malcolm Jones/GTL story out of circulation.