For yet another time, the people of La Brea have lost out on an opportunity to stimulate economic activity in the depressed community after Australian outfit BHP decided to build its latest oil and gas platform outside of Trinidad and Tobago. In making the decision, the company said only one local company responded and foreign bids were more competitive.
This is grim news for a community in dire need of economic activity and jobs. What is even more concerning is the Government’s silence on this.
Well-placed sources have indicated the BHP platform to be constructed is small compared to the huge platforms TOFCO built in the past for BPTT.
In 2017, La Brea lost out on an opportunity when BP took a decision not to fabricate the Angelin Gas platform in La Brea. Angered by the decision, Oilfields Workers' Trade Union president general Ancel Roget made his now-infamous “Take your rig and go!” comment. He had accused the company of holding the Government to ransom but the fact is BP’s decision then followed the debacle of several work stoppages and delays in the platform's delivery.
While Government had added its own voice of concern about BP’s decision back then, there has been silence about BHP’s latest decision. But La Brea MP Nicole Ollivierre said she was disappointed by BHP’s decision, saying it raises the question about the company’s commitment to local content. She described the decision as a loss for the country and her constituents who benefit from the economic activity generated by Tofco. Ollivierre is also concerned about the loss to the economy in terms of tax revenues.
BHP’s communications manager Judy Dane told Guardian Media that BHP builds local capabilities by exploring opportunities to upskill nationals either directly on the project or indirectly.
In August, BHP board approved its more than $3 billion Ruby and Delaware project in T&T. Dane insisted the Ruby project will lead to other opportunities for local suppliers.
While the commitment to local content is welcome, one can’t help but wonder whether greater benefit would not have come from having the platform constructed in La Brea at a time when the community could use any economic activity it can get, especially in the wake of the closure of Petrotrin.
On the other hand, one can understand the preference to do the work elsewhere given the number of work stoppages and delays BP experienced when it tried to construct a platform locally. BHP has never built a platform in T&T and several other producers like EOG resources have bypassed La Brea. Maybe the MP and those in authority need to look into why that is so.
While the Government owes it to the people to ensure there is always economic benefit from business decisions taken, trade unions and workers also need to understand that if we develop a reputation for downing tools at the drop of a hat, the repercussions will be long-lasting.