Monday, January 22, 2018

How to stop the diesel racket

The Minister of Energy seems to be missing the point on the diesel racket. The racket takes place on the ocean, not on the land. Government can stop the racket but it must first completely stop the diesel subsidy at all of the waterfront facilities.

Hiding behind the fishermen will not do. Inshore fishermen do not use diesel, so removing the subsidy on the waterfront will have no impact on the local fishing economy. The few locally registered industrial off-shore long liners export 95 per cent of their pelagic catch, therefore the diesel subsidy is not assisting local people, but in fact, is subsidising the cost of fish sold to foreign appetites.

So why are we subsidising foreign markets for fish?

Solving the racket is easy. Two simple steps:

1. No diesel being sold at the waterfront should be sold at a subsidised price. No one should be dealing in subsidised bunkering, especially not the state-run NP and Petrotrin, no one. Risks will exist, and loopholes will be found wherever subsidised fuel is sold in a flippantly unregulated environment. So it must stop wherever it occurs.

2. If a legitimate subsidy is to exist, the approved entity can apply to the Government for a rebate after they have justified that they have used the subsidised fuel as intended... for fishing, or for whatever the Government approves.

From what little has happened in the past months, and for the glaring questions that continue to be raised and left unanswered, it would appear that there are people who have a serious personal interest in not stopping this racket.

Imagine in the same week, a man smoking marijuana gets six months imprisonment, and the man running rackets with hundreds of millions of dollars of diesel gets fined $4,000? What would Gene Miles say?

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea repeats its call on the Government to urgently hold informed open and closed door consultations with relevant stakeholders who have had a consistent and objective interest in the energy sector.

Gary Aboud

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea