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Stabroek News

T&T's 'freebie' to Alcoa
published: Wednesday | December 28, 2005


Natural gas tanks. - REUTERS

PORT OF SPAIN (Trinidad Guardian):

NO MATTER how they hide, disguise or package it, the deal is 15 years free gas to Alcoa plus subsidised electricity.

That, according to informed sources, is a conditionality to which the Trinidad Government has agreed, in order to cut the deal with Alcoa and their proposed 341,000 metric tonnes aluminium smelter in the Cedros Peninsula.

Curtis Williams, writing out of Washington DC, says that "bpTT has guaranteed the Government that the plant will have the use of a specified amount of free gas for a 15-year period." (Business Guardian, April 28, Page 8)

No government source has confirmed or denied that report, so we have to conclude the report is on target.

Why 15 years? Why not five or 20? What is the specified amount? Daily requirements perhaps? All of that is top secret. And no questions from the Opposition bench as yet, and none apparently forthcoming.

GAS GOING TO ALCOA

While it may appear that the gas will be going to the government of T&T, in truth and in fact, the gas will be going to Alcoa, the government fronting the give-away.

The government has agreed to build the electricity plant for the exclusive use of Alcoa.

The government will finance, construct, operate, fuel and maintain the plant and then sell for nine cents a KW, the same electricity for which the people of T&T are currently paying 15 cents per KW.

One wonders to what extent the Government, which is making a strong bid for headquartering the FTAA, is violating the free trade idea by offering such a generous subsidy to Alcoa.

Did Ispatt not encounter some difficulties a few years ago with 'subsidised steel' in the United States? One wonders how the U.S. will rationalise the entry of subsidised aluminium?

What more does the deal require T&T giving to this international conglomerate?

STATE-OF-THE-ART PORT

In addition to site development, the Government will have to build Alcoa a state-of-the-art port. (NB: The proposed smelter plant will reportedly consume 570 MW of electric power, which is approximately 50 per cent of our current power consumption in T&T).

Additionally, the Government will have to provide millions of gallons of WASA water on a daily basis, since Alcoa does not intend to build their water system to cool their plant. This in a situation where the people of Icacos have not received pipeborne water for the past three weeks.

Additionally, Alcoa will take at least 1500 acres of residential, forest and agricultural lands from the original 2,000 acres plus site for their smelter.

The Alcoa smelter also calls for the forcible relocation of more than 100 families, the destruction of seven community sites of worship - a temple, a mosque, a pentecostal church, a catholic church, an Anglican church, a seven day Adventist church, an in-house open Bible church; the Chatham Government School, the Chatham Community Centre, the Chatham Youth Camp--presumably office space for Alcoa; the WASA plant, to be soon, most probably, the Alcoa/WASA water system; two recreation grounds; a former free-slave settlement called Bourg Congo, ancestral abode of many residents of Chatham; the sea coast and surrounding seas, which will be destroyed and contaminated, resulting in the eventual destruction of the Granville Reef, sanctuary for turtles and various species of rock fish.

The silver hatchet fish, Gasteropelecus sternicla, found naturally only in Chatham, already endangered, may be lost from the wilds forever.

HERITAGE CONSUMED

The fact of the matter is that a whole village, a quiet, romantic part of the heritage of T&T will be consumed in one enormous gulp by Alcoa, through the instrumentality of the government and a silent but conspiring Opposition.

All this in a scenario where Alcoa have no plans in place for dealing with spent pot-liners, a deadly waste that comes with the deal. As well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, a by-product of the waste cooling water that may more than likely be discharged into the sea ... or perhaps into the underground water system?

Destroying a whole community ... making the people of the Cedros peninsula a foreign reservation in their own country.

Of what value is Citizen, if your Government will bulldoze you out of existence in the interest of foreign conglomerates?

But in the mind of the Government some citizens are more equal than others.

Those "behind God's back" are surely different from those at the Breakfast Shed or on the "Drag."

They, the Government insists, "will surely eat of the bread that the Devil kneads."

We shall see.

Yet, to give away our gas--15 years of free gas to Alcoa--is a matter for national uproar.

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