Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told Chinese investors at a business forum in Beijing yesterday if her administration can “take out” the $4 billion subsidy on gasoline and diesel by providing compressed natural gas (CNG) on a wider scale, then the Government could spend that money on hospitals, schools and roads.
“Listen, our cars, we cannot import them fast enough, they just sell. We go through them by the month. So many new vehicles come into the country so the fuel is well used and over used,” Persad-Bissessar said to the Chinese investors while speaking through a translator.
She spoke on the matter while delivering the feature address at a business forum hosted by InvesTT at the Great Hall of the People, less than three days after Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine said “there will not be any adjustment in the price of gasoline or diesel” in the next two years, as the Government is working on establishing a nationwide CNG network as a solution to the annual $4 billion fuel subsidy.
Ramnarine made the statement in Beijing on Sunday during the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the National Gas Company (NGC) and China’s ENN Group meant to help accelerate Trinidad & Tobago’s CNG programme.
“This agreement will have a major positive impact on my country’s energy and transport industries by making CNG a more viable fuel option choice for the motoring public, now this is very important to us,” Persad-Bissessar said.
She said through this project, Trinidad and Tobago and China can partner in two ways.
“One, of course, will be the stations to be built but we can look for partners with respect to the supply of conversion kits into CNG for the vehicles,” Persad-Bissessar said.
She then made reference to the $4 billion now being spent annually on the fuel subsidy.
“If we can take that subsidy out not, by giving people the petrol at a higher price, but by instead using CNG which is cheaper for us to produce, then I can save $4 billion which I can then put into hospitals, into schools, into roads, whilst at the same time offering fuel, the CNG at a reduced cost to our public,” Persad-Bissessar said.
On Sunday, ENN Group president Yip Sang Cheung said that ENN has been involved in the natural gas industry in China for over 25 years.
Ramnarine had said in 2013, the Cabinet approved a $500 million proposal from the NGC for phase one of the expansion of the CNG distribution network.
“That has two parts to it, one is the construction of 22 dispensing points and the other is the conversion of 300 buses and some high-use vehicles and maxi taxis and so on,” Ramnarine said.
NCG chairman Roopchan Chadeesingh said on Sunday that NGC is “going to concentrate in the first two years” targeting fleet owners, some Government vehicles such as those belonging to the police and the regiment.