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Petrotrin beyond the numbers
Cabinet is today expected to consider the report into the operations of state-owned Petrotrin and make decisions on the future of the company.
In coming to its decisions, the Cabinet will have to consider not just the financial operations of the company but the important role it plays in many communities in south Trinidad.
According to the EITI 2014/2015 report, Petrotrin has a history of supporting local communities and groups and plays an important role in promoting education, training and community development.
The report reads, “Petrotrin contributes to the Treasury, develops indigenous capabilities and ensures human development within the company and through its many community investments. To this end, the company has consistently supported several groups within the national community to ensure the sustainability and preservation of T&T’s multifaceted culture and colourful traditions.
“In 2014 and 2015, Petrotrin spent $16,146,994 and $15,295,076 respectively on its CSR programme. Petrotrin’s CSR Programme focuses on: culture, sport, environment, education and training, and community development.”
One such group that Petrotrin helps is the Marabella Family Crisis Centre.
Established in 1992 following the closure of the Union Park Race Club, the centre’s original aim was to provide a meal to 15 people on Sundays.
Since then, the group has grown into a non-profit organisation that is now crucial in helping the poor in Marabella.
Marabella is an important community to Petrotrin because it is on the company’s fence line.
It is only the Guaracara River that separates Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery from Marabella, a community in which there are significant pockets of poverty.
CEO and founder Marabella Family Crisis Centre, Terrence Boissiere, told the Business Guardian that the centre could not function if it did not get support from Petrotrin.
He noted that while the company has had to reduce its financial contribution to the group over the last three years, it is the organisational support that is also crucial to its operations.
He explained that when the Family Crisis Centre was established, the Union Park Turf Club was winding down as horse racing became centralised at the Arima Race Club.
This meant that many people who depended on the Union Club for their “hustle” lost the opportunity to eek out a living and hence became dispossessed.
“We tried to fill that void and started with a meals-on-wheels programme starting with 15 lunches. When we saw the extent of the poverty and the challenges, it grew to the point where we were part of the then SHARE programme. Now, apart from meals, we also do social intervention and rehabilitation,” said Boissiere.
He said the centre is also used by the various universities for students doing social work practicum training.
“We are now introducing a hydroponics programme. Petrotrin gave us the pipes for the post and we got a sponsor for the wire. The idea is to introduce the youths to this type of farming so they may have an opportunity to learn a skill and, if possible, be empowered to eventually enter into their own agricultural businesses,” Boissiere added.
He pointed out that the centre also provides protection and a roof over the heads for a few young men who have nowhere else to go and, in so doing, does its part in helping deal with the scourge of crime.
Bossierre noted that the centre’s football team has also provided an opportunity for youths to secure football scholarships in the United States and named two players who are today on the national senior men’s football teams; players who started at the centre.
“Things are challenging. We are seeing what I call the “new poor” and we have to do more in this time of economic challenge. In that context I can say, without a doubt, we really will find it near impossible to make it without the help of our neighbour Petrotrin.”
The EITI report also pointed out that Petrotrin plays a crucial role in the cadet corps based in Fyzabad.
The report noted that the Petrotrin Cadet Corps is intended to motivate and develop young people and to provide an alternate source of activity with the hopes that, eventually, cadets will join state bands and services.
The report read: “To date, over 500 cadets have graduated from the corps. Petrotrin has also contributed to the participation of young people in the Global Young Leadership Conference.
“This conference brings together outstanding young people from several parts of the world and provides an out-of-classroom learning experience that equips students with the confidence, independence, skills and global competitiveness required of the next generation of future leaders. Petrotrin assisted 25 and 23 students in 2014 and 2015 respectively.”
It is this goodwill that the Cabinet must not ignore in evaluating the role of the company and its true contribution to T&T.
...major support for its fence-line communities
Petrotrin has from its inception played a crucial role in sports in T&T.
Through its predecessor companies—Trintoc and Trintopec—many members of the Strike Squad football team have been part of, and remain, among the company’s staff.
In fact, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) also pointed to the role of Petrotrin in the development of sport in the country.
In its 2014/2015 report, the EITI said Petrotrin heavily involved in the women’s football.
“In 2015, Petrotrin celebrated its third successful edition of the Women’s Development Football Programme. This two-month long initiative focused on exposing young women, aged 11-17, to the basic techniques of football. In 2015, the programme accommodated secondary school students in addition to students from fence-line primary schools,” the EITI report noted.
In fact, in 2015, Petrotrin sponsored the Petrotrin Oilers Football Team for the 2015 Women’s Premier League (WPL).
The team consisted of players from the company’s women’s team as well as players from within Petrotrin’s fence-line communities.
The company has supported football in Marabella with the sponsorship of what is the oldest community football league in the country.
Tracey Caesar has been in charge of the Marabella Football League since 1971.
He said Petrotrin and its predecessor companies have always been involved in the league and it is their involvement with both the football league and the Marabella basketball league that has helped ensure crime is controlled in the area.
Caesar told the Business Guardian, “There are four teams from the train lines in Marabella. Those teams represent different areas. It is because of the teams we don’t have this nonsense of borderline communities where people can’t go freely from one community to the other. Yes we have crime in all parts of Trinidad and Tobago but sports and this league helps alleviate it.”
Caesar said Petrotrin as the flagship sponsor has always ensured that prize money is paid to the teams on time and such efficiency, in part, has kept the league going.
“One thing anyone can say is that once you play in the Marabella Football League, 30 minutes after the final whistle on the last day of competition there is a prize-giving function and people receive their prizes. Petrotrin ensures that things are done with the requisite checks and balances,” Caesar said.
The league begins on July 29 and, again, Petrotrin will be the main sponsor, albeit with reduced funding.
Caesar said the league has served as a feeder for the pro league.
He noted that it also allows many from the fence-line communities to use sport as a way to stay out of a life of crime.
Moving beyond football, Petrotrin has, for decades, supported cricket including using and upkeeping its ground—Guaracara Park—for local and regional cricket.
Additionally, the company has played a key role in track and field and cycling.
Anthony Commissiong, also known as the “Bike Doctor,” has been responsible for organising the Southern Games for decades.
He said Petrotrin remains the main sponsor and says without the company’s support the games could not go on.
Noting the importance of the games to developing athletes and keeping athletics alive in south Trinidad, Commissiong said Petrotrin’s sponsorship cannot be equated in just monetary value but in terms of the leadership, support and organisational skills it brings to the table.