4,000 jobs for the East

Wheels in motion for diversification project

The $87 million Alutech Research and Development Facility in Wallerfield is being hailed as one of Government’s major initiatives in its diversification thrust.

But the facility was also conceptualised with a specific purpose in mind – to promote economic prosperity in the eastern communities of TT, which has traditionally been neglected at the expense of other regions.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley indicated this in his feature address at the launch of the project at the Tamana In-Tech Park on October 3.

Rowley said an estimated 4,000 jobs will be created for the people of the region when the park is up and running within the next 18 months.

Its catchment embraces residents in three regional territories: Sangre Grande, Arima and Tunapuna/Piarco.

“That is not to be looked at lightly because if you are looking at the geography of Trinidad and Tobago and you look at the population distribution, or more, look at the areas of economic activity, what you will see is that the bulk of the occupancy on our island, Trinidad, in particular, is that the western side of our island, facing the Gulf of Paria, is where all of the economic development is focussed,” he told an audience.

“So, in central, west and north west, we have put in the infrastructure. We got the businesses going there. But, a large part of our legacy, inheritance, which is anything east of Arima, all the way down to Moruga, that area is underutilised and underperforming.”

He added: “And, it will remain so unless there are deliberate strategies to bring those areas into the national economy so that people who live out there could have the opportunities that those who live in central and west have. And also you can bring to them, the opportunity to grow economically, socially and financially.”

Rowley said statistics have shown that the people of Sangre Grande and surrounding communities in the north east are among the poorest in the country.

“And it is not because they were born so. It is because the opportunities of infrastructure are not there for them.”

He continued: “What this Government is embarking on is a rectification of that situation. So, you will see a lot of the development that we are looking at is not in St James, that is done already, is not on the foreshore by the stadium. That is done already.”

The PM said part of that development is already in progress through the extension of the Churchill Roosevelt Highway to parts of east Trinidad “because that is what is required to bring that part of the country and those people into the national economy.”

Riviere: TT can be an aluminium hub

Alfredo Riviere, president and CEO of Venezuelan company, Sural, which is overseeing the mega project, said Alutech is projected to facilitate export earnings of more than $1.2 billion over the next two decades.

He said Alutech had the potential to make TT the manufacturing hub for aluminium in the region.

“Alutech is the beginning of our plans to make Trinidad and Tobago a manufacturing hub for aluminium transformation, helping the country diversify away from energy-related industries,” he said.

Riviere said TT has reason to be “happy and optimistic about the future.”

“We have succeeded in opening a state-of-the-art facility that will produce unique products for the automotive industry, starting with aluminium wheels.”

Riviere said the aluminium industry is the highest growing industry in the world with an estimated rate at six per cent per annum projected for the next ten years.

Saying transportation is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world, Riviere said TT, given its inherent attributes, is well-positioned to capitalise on this trend.

He said: “Trinidad and Tobago offers advantages for the establishment of industries, the stability of the economy and political system, the strategic geographical location, the availability of affordable energy and especially the extraordinary quality of its people.”

The Alutech plant will occupy a 65,000 sq ft space on 2.7 hectares of land at the Tamana In-Tech Park.

Riviere said at full production, TT will be able to manufacture and export half a million wheels per year.

He said in the first instance, the plant would target exports to South and Central American markets such as Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, the US and Canada by producing 175 million wheels per year.

High praise for Julien

It was energy expert Prof Kenneth Julien who first noted TT’s potential to delve into the aluminium business on a global scale.

Discussions with Julien, Riviere said, began in 2000 and five years later, he said a joint venture agreement was signed for Alutech.

“That agreement is not anymore a declaration of ideas. It is a reality that has taken 13 years for this dream to come true.”

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon acknowledged Julien’s role in the development of the project.

She recalled when construction began under the then Patrick Manning-led PNM government in 2009, it was envisaged to be the catalyst for the development of new technology with the potential to revolutionise downstream aluminium production, thereby enhancing TT’s competitiveness in the industry.

However, she lamented the project was thwarted by the former People’s Partnership government when it assumed office in September 2010.

She told the audience: “As a consequence, the customised building remained unfinished and the opportunities for foreign investment and export business were lost and a substantial already secured valuable manufacturing equipment, left idle.”

Gopee-Scoon added: “It is the taxpayer who bore the cost of works completed as well as termination costs to the then contractor, Carillion Ltd.”

The minister said in mid-2016, the standing committee on energy, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, completed an extensive review of the downstream aluminium project and the Cabinet gave the green light to the project.

Gopee-Scoon said in January, eTecK engaged the services of KS&P Ltd, a local civil and structural engineering firm to review the construction drawings and specifications of the facility to ensure the designs met Alutech Ltd’s requirements and conduct analyses of existing structural and services design for compliance with new codes.

Gopee-Scoon said in May 2017, Cabinet agreed that eTecK would complete the building structure to locate Alutech.

Further, she said the project fits into Government’s robust development agenda, in particular, Theme 1V-Building Globally Competitive Business – with its goal of providing high value products and services that can compete in export markets.

Gopee-Scoon said the SCG Caribbean Group Ltd, a subsidiary of the Shanghai Construction Group, has been awarded the contract to construct the Alutech facility.

She said the contractor will utilise 60 per cent local labour, including local sub-contractors to bring benefits to the people of Wallerfield and environs from the start of construction.

On September 18, Gopee-Scoon had signalled the moves to get going on the Alutech project during a press conference hosted by Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe and attended by officials of the TT Automobile Sports Association (TTASA), including president Fyzool Madan and vice-president Jameer Ali, at the J Hamilton Maurice Room, at Parliament, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. At the time, discussion was on the extension of use of lands adjacent to the Alutech site for motor sport for three months until further discussions on allocation of land for the sport.

In her remarks, Gopee-Scoon highlighted the production of aluminium wheels the automotive industry.

“The public will recognise that Government had agreed to the resumption of activity regarding the construction of the Alutech Research and Development Facility wherein the housing of our manufacturing plant for the production of alloy wheel rims from aluminium will be resumed. This activity begins on October 1 and is likely to last one year.”

A survey is currently being done to guide on a 30-metre buffer to the Alutech facility and the possible extension of lands to accommodate drag and circuit racing.


Ministry clears primary school debt.

3Primary schools have started receiving direct funding from the Ministry of Education, one week after a public appeal was made for the Education Minister Anthony Garcia to treat the matter with urgency.

While happy with this development, the Association of Denominational Boards of Education said there are more pressing concerns they want both Education Minister Anthony Garcia and The Teaching Service Commission to address.

These include the critical issues of filling of teaching and administrative vacancies, repairs of school buildings weakened by the recent earthquake, and an update on the status of the School Building programme.

The board confirmed receipt of funding, yesterday, one week after it publicly expressed concerns that no such payment was made since March 2017, and the negative impact this was having on the schools.

Both the TT Unified Teachers Association and the board, in separate releases said the funds are used to purchase basic items such as toilet paper, cleaning material and stationery.

Yesterday a spokesman from the board said they are very happy that the schools have started to receive funding as this will take a burden off principals and teachers who struggle to raise funds to acquire basic necessities to keep their schools running.


PM officially asks COP, FIU to investigate Moonilal’s claims.

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley to­day sent cor­re­spon­dence to the Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice, Gary Grif­fith and the Di­rec­tor of the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit, Su­san Fran­cois re­quest­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the al­le­ga­tions of crim­i­nal con­duct made against him and oth­er per­sons by Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Oropouche East, Dr Roodal Mooni­lal in Par­lia­ment on Tues­day 09 Oc­to­ber, 2018.

This was con­firmed by the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter in a me­dia re­lease Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

The state­ment said that Dr Row­ley re­quest­ed that both re­cip­i­ents, as a mat­ter of ur­gent pub­lic in­ter­est, use their of­fices to in­ves­ti­gate and re­port on their find­ings and to take any and all ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion, as the cir­cum­stances may war­rant.

On Wednes­day, the prime min­is­ter de­nied claims that he has an ac­count in any fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion in the Unit­ed States and said he would call on the Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er and the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit to ini­ti­ate probes in­to the claims Oropouche MP Roodal Mooni­lal has made against him.

Dr Row­ley had al­so said he would in­struct At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi to use the var­i­ous treaties Gov­ern­ment has signed on­to with the Unit­ed States, to pur­sue the ac­qui­si­tion of var­i­ous state­ments and doc­u­men­ta­tion at the fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion named by Mooni­lal so that the mat­ter could be thor­ough­ly in­ves­ti­gat­ed.

He made the com­ment dur­ing a press con­fer­ence, la­belling Mooni­lal’s al­le­ga­tions “a mon­strous lie.”

Ac­com­pa­nied by his lawyer Michael Quam­i­na, Row­ley de­nied al­le­ga­tions he ben­e­fit­ted fi­nan­cial­ly from A&V Drilling in re­la­tion to the fake oil fi­as­co at Petrotrin.

Dr Mooni­lal made the claims dur­ing Tues­day’s Bud­get de­bate in Par­lia­ment, where he al­leg­ed­ly read from doc­u­ments he claimed showed the Prime Min­is­ter had ben­e­fit­ed from fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions con­duct­ed through a Flori­da-based bank.

But Quam­i­na not­ed that the email pur­port­ed to have been sent to the PM was not, in fact, his email ad­dress, car­ried no date and was al­so not ad­dressed to Row­ley and was ob­vi­ous­ly to be false.

He said the com­pa­ny named by Dr Mooni­lal as hav­ing been part of the trans­ac­tion, For­mu­la 1 Trad­ing, had al­so ceased to func­tion since 2011 and was struck off the com­pa­ny’s reg­istry in T&T.

‘I only speak for myself’

Meet me in court.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday announced that having been advised that he has legal recourse, he instructed his attorney to file a suit for libel against Member of Parliament for Oropouche East, Dr Roodal Moonilal and United National Congress, Chaguanas Alderman and public relations officer of the UNC National Women’s Arm, Marisa Ramlogan, in connection with allegations initially made in Parliament by Moonilal on Tuesday.
Contacted for comment last night, Moonilal said he was not surprised. “This is an act of desperation and an attempt to muzzle and instil fear in citizens (and deter them) from speaking out on issues. It is even more dangerous since these allegations had been made in the Parliament so it is a matter of grave public and legal importance. I look forward to receiving the appropriate claim forms because I would be very anxious to read the foundation of such a claim,” he said.

Rowley to sue over corruption claim.

THE Prime Minister has flatly denied Opposition claims he has a dubious Miami bank account and has asked the police and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to fully investigate the allegations. He has also instructed the Attorney General (AG) to seek information from authorities in Miami under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

Dr Rowley held a news briefing at Parliament today, accompanied by several top ministers including AG Faris Al-Rawi, plus the PM’s attorney Michael Quamina.

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, in the House of Representatives budget debate on Tuesday night, claimed to have a bank document and an e-mail showing Rowley held a joint accont with one Vidya Deokiesingh, the same name as a former Petrotrin employee fired over the AV Drilling “fake oil” scandal.

Quamina said while Moonilal’s remarks on Tuesday night were protected by parliamentary privilege, the MP’s subsequent posts on Facebook could expose him to liability for libel in line with a famous case involving a New Zealand MP. Quamina also vowed legal action against people he dubbed “paid bloggers” who repeat the allegations online.

Saying he had been disallowed by the Speaker from joining Tuesday night’s debate to respond to Moonilal’s allegations, Rowley promised to make a statement in the House today.

Rowley described the allegations as “a monstrous lie” and “a fabrication” by someone allegedly intent on trying to destroy his character.

“I have transacted no business in Florida with any person,” Rowley said. “I have no banking relationship with anyone in Florida.”

Saying he was running a government of morality in public affairs, he said corruption is a heinous crime that violated the oath of office he has taken.

He said he is asking Commissioner Gary Griffith to direct the relevant arm of the police to fully investigate the allegations as a matter of urgency, as well as the FIU. While the FIU investigates in secrecy, Rowley said he wants his business to be made public, insisting, “The outcome ought to be made known to the public.”

Rowley and Quamina cast doubt on the validity of two documents purportedly offered by Moonilal. Quamina alleged that Moonilal had cited bank account numbers as if read from a bank document, when actually they were alleged merely cited in an e-mail that Moonilal had referred to.

“We’ll be pursuing all avenues to show how false this contribution was,” Quamina said.

At midday yesterday, CoP Gary Griffith told Newsday, “I have not received any correspondence on this matter from the Prime Minister.”


Re­cy­cling project :-Em­per­or Val­ley Zoo

Re­cy­cling project being repaved with discarded plastic bottles.


More than 1.5 mil­lion dis­card­ed plas­tic bot­tles are be­ing used to pave a road near the Em­per­or Val­ley Zoo.

It’s part of the zoo’s re­cy­cling project.

The road­way in­cor­po­rates pavers made from sin­gle-use plas­tic bot­tles pre­vi­ous­ly used for wa­ter and soft drinks.

The dis­card­ed plas­tics were chipped and in­cor­po­rat­ed in­to each paver, stor­ing it there for­ev­er.

In this way, the zoo hopes that few­er plas­tics en­ter land­fills and wa­ter­ways such as rivers and oceans.

The project is a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Fly­ing Tree En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment.

CoP: ‘Don’t let yourselves to be used on social media’

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has told members of the public to be extremely cautious about sharing information deemed seditious on social media.

Today he insisted that he was not on a witch hunt when he told people they could face prosecution for breaking the law.

He reminded citizens that blocking roads and highways is illegal under the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, and carries a fine of $600 and three demerit points. People were also cautioned against “communicating and publishing any statement with a seditious intention.”


Imbert: Economy will suffer if Petrotrin is prevented from moving forward

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has warned that Trinidad and Tobago’s economy will suffer “profound implications” if Petrotrin is prevented from moving forward with its restructuring plan.

He said just yesterday he received a letter from Petrotrin asking for financial support by giving Government guarantees for financial facilities to three banks to the tune of TT$1.2 billion and when he signs this it immediately pushes this country’s debt profile up.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday following the Industrial Court judgment restraining Petrotrin from retrenching workers and shutting down the company, Imbert said these financing facilities need to be re-financed on or before October 15.



Sorry Windies hand India largest-ever Test win


A familiar capitulation saw West Indies lose 14 wickets in just over two sessions as India romped to an emphatic innings and 272-run victory inside three days of the opening Test yesterday to record their largest-ever win in Tests.

Resuming their first innings on 94 for six at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, West Indies were dismissed for 181, nearly three-quarters of an hour before lunch, with Roston Chase converting his overnight 27 into a top score of 53 and tail-ender Keemo Paul hitting an aggressive 47.



Skinner Park upgrade.

Key to new development in the southern city


A major upgrade is coming for Skinner Park in San Fernando.Finance Minister Colm Imbert spoke of the project in his 2019 budget speech on Monday, even as the Urban Development Corporation of TT (Udecott) published advertisements for expressions of interest in the landmark in the southern capital.

“The redevelopment of Skinner Park will ensure that our national community will have access to the premier multi-purpose complex which will be used by schools and communities to host numerous sporting and cultural activities,” Imbert declared in his budget statement.

Udecott was engaged by the Sport and Youth Affairs Ministry to provide project management services for the project. Udecott is inviting suitably qualified and experienced firms to submit proposals for design-construct services, which include but are not limited to the demolition and removal of existing stands and refurbishment of the park’s track and field infrastructure.

Prospective entities, Udecott said, may associate to enhance their team but must indicate whether they are a joint venture, consortium or sub-consultancy.

Udecott said, “All members of such associations must have real and well defined inputs to the assignment and their contribution must be detailed in the submission.”

The deadline for submissions was Tuesday.

Built in 1926, the grounds were first called Usine Park because of their connection with the sugar belt in Usine Ste Madeleine. It was later renamed Skinner Park after GC Skinner, then manager of the Ste Madeleine Sugar Company.

One of the many historical landmarks in San Fernando, Skinner Park is also the perennial site of the Calypso Monarch semi-finals. The national steelband Panorama finals were held there on February 17, 2007. This was the first time that the event was held somewhere other than the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain, as that location was unavailable owing to planned construction of a Carnival complex on its grounds.

The park’s role as a sporting venue has largely been supplanted by the Manny Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella, and Guaracara Park in Pointe-a-Pierre. The people of San Fernando predominantly use Skinner Park for recreational purposes such as football, cricket and other athletic events and training.

As someone coming from the “bowels of San Fernando” through his involvement with Skiffle Bunch steelband, San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello said he is “very excited” that Udecott will be redeveloping Skinner Park. Regrello said the project is timely because it comes when San Fernando is on the cusp of development with several other projects, and there will be direct employment through the engagement of contractors and other workers at the site.

Referring to the phased closure of Petrotrin’s refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre, which began on Monday, Regrello hoped the redevelopment of the park and other projects in San Fernando could provide opportunities for some of the workers.

Imbert too spoke of the wider development plans, principally the waterfront project, which centres on a modernised King’s Wharf, due for completion in 2020 at a cost of $144 million. Also in line are the construction of medium-income housing at Lady Hailes Avenue utilising public-private partnership arrangements. and the development of the Chancery Lane administrative complex.

“These two projects in San Fernando (the waterfront and Skinner Park) will create employment opportunism for nearby communities, such as Pointe-a-Pierre,” Imbert said.

In a similar vein, Regrello was optimistic that the redeveloped park will be a revenue-earner for the city and also stimulate business activity, particularly in the immediate area.

Noting the cycling track there was built in 1966, Regrello said the park has been “crying out” for many years for an improvement of its sporting facilities. In addition, the park also has facilities for football, cricket, basketball and other sports.

Regrello said a proposed multi-tiered stand will significantly increase the park’s ability to accommodate more people for various events, andcorporate boxes, similar to those at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, were being considered.

Regrello said a redeveloped Skinner Park will also provide a proper location for many football teams in south Trinidad to play matches and hold training sessions. Along with Manny Ramjohn Stadium and the Brian Lara Stadium and Cricket Academy in Tarouba, Regrello said it is possibleSkinner Park could play a role in boosting sport tourism.