POINT Fortin MP Paula Gopee-Scoon has said the country was experiencing a "crunch" in the energy sector and criticised Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine for not arresting declining oil production.
She was contributing to the debate on the national budget in the Lower House, Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre, yesterday.
While Gopee-Scoon commended Ramnarine on his "vigour" on energy matters, harmonisation of the Supplemental Petroleum Tax (SPT) rates and Government on the successful deep water competitive bidding round, she said a number of energy initiatives by the PNM had fallen through like a bitumen plant with Indian company Reliance.
She also said she had heard nothing about a melamine plant, two methanol plants, iron and steel facility and a Ghanian energy initiative.
"What about the replacement to Alutrint and the promised job creation, thousands and thousands of jobs?" she asked rhetorically.
She noted that while Ramnarine announced that his number one priority was increased oil production, it had actually worsened and over three years continued to decline. She pointed out that at 27.3 million barrels for October 2011 to June 2012 this was 28 per cent lower than where the PNM left it.
"Has the minister been able to arrest the decline? Absolutely not. So I think we are going nowhere with this Government in regard to energy except for what we spoke of in terms of the further exploration the results of that we are not going to see until the long term," she said.
She said with three years "into the game" they had failed with diversifications in the energy sector and the downstream industry, and there were also no incentives to existing gas producers.
On the budget, she said to her "dismay" it was a lighthearted, anecdotal, superficial and fleeting presentation. She added that she would not point fingers solely at Finance Minister Larry Howai but noted that there was a "toxic environment" of those around him.
She said in less than a week Howai had shifted from austerity to a stimulus budget and questioned whether the presentation was him speaking or his political colleagues. She noted there were no calls to trim expenses in ministries as the previous PNM administration had done. Gopee-Scoon declared the budget was about "political sustainability" and "remaining in power".
She also advised the Government that there could be a "feeding frenzy" for the largescale projects announced and it needed to ensure transparency.