President of the American Chamber of Commerce Hugh Howard believes Government needs a better, more precise plan to develop the downstream energy sector.
Speaking to the Express via telephone yesterday, Howard said the country needed a ten-year plan from the Ministry of Energy that fully articulates the targets hoped to be achieved by the sector, and what the results will be when they come on stream, including estimates of revenue, employment and technological training and advancement.
On Monday the Express reported that the negotiation process for a $30 billion methanol processing project between the Ministry of Energy and a Saudi Arabian/Chinese consortium, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and its Chinese partner Sinopec, had been scrapped.
Howard, who is a corporate, energy and natural resource attorney said a deal like the Sabic/Sinopec methanol project needed cheap natural gas from the get-go to continue.
"What I read in the papers is they failed to reach an agreement on pricing. There was a temporary shortfall in natural gas last year due to maintenance work so I don't know how the gas supply at that time would have been able to accommodate the consortium's requirement. I would therefore think if there was an issue regarding the quantity of gas available then the country would have wanted to maximise its returns. But until I am apprised of all the facts it is difficult to say what went wrong. We haven't heard from Sabic/Sinopec yet about their disappointment or if something took place differently to what they had been bargaining for but that would be another story," Howard said.
He added: "It would be great if we could get foreign direct investment into the country on terms that are in our favour."
He said Trinidad and Tobago was still an attractive investment destination, but the real issue was the country's level of competitiveness.
"People coming in look at a number of variables—industrial relations climate; perception of corruption and fairness; and they want to be satisfied that if they come in they will have as equal an opportunity as anyone else. White collar crime in my view does more damage, but if you have a combination of white collar and violent crime it creates reservations on the part of investors—local and foreign," he said.