Cash only at selected gas stations… OWNERS BATTLE WITH GOVERNMENT

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That’s how motorists will be able to fill up their tanks from Friday at selected gas stations.

Since the announcement on Tuesday by the Petroleum Dealers Association (PDA), there has been a public outcry, with the main issue being motorists’ fear of being targeted by bandits as these gas stations.

Even PDA President, Dr Robin Naraynsingh believes that bandits are looking at them.

Moves by gas station operators to accept cash from customers over electronic payments will make them sitting ducks to the criminal elements, Naraynsingh added.

“When you stop to think about the totality of things it is not a big difference. That is what the Government has exposed the dealers to,” Naraynsingh said of the move taken by members to reduce operating costs.

“We have become sitting ducks for criminals now with the measures we have imposed. When we look at what is happening we are at the mercy of the Government. The Government has to take us out of this position that we have found ourselves in,” he added.

The PDA is sticking to its decision to only accept cash payments for fuel from Friday.

This is despite a directive from Minister of Finance Colm Imbert on Thursday that National Petroleum Mar­keting Company (NP) gas stations must continue accepting debit and credit card transactions.

But Naraynsingh maintained if retails dealers are to revert to the electronic payment option, it could result in staff being sent home.

“We could either fire the workers and take credit cards or stop the credit cards and keep our employees. These employees have been with our organisation for 15 to 20 years. How do we tell them that they can’t work anymore?” he asked.

Naraynsingh felt Imbert should have met with the dealers to hear first-hand the dire situation they are facing.

He said, instead, the minister went ahead and gave the directive without providing alternative solutions.

“It is punishment upon punishment. Our industry is a controlled industry. The Petroleum Act says that the Minister of Energy, in consultation with the Minister of Finance, can fix the price of fuel in Tri­nidad and Tobago. They went ahead and they raised the price, but they didn’t consider the hardship that they will be putting us through. Regardless of how much gas you sell, it doesn’t matter what you do, every time somebody swipes a card, we lose money,” Naraynsingh said.

“So the minister wants us to just pay for things when we don’t have the money. He wants us to go into debt to finance the country. Why is he doing this to us? Why has he singled us out and put us in this position,” he lamented.

He stressed retail dealers are barely surviving at his point.

“For every litre of gas I sell at $5.75, I have to give Government .9 percent of that. Out of that money now, I have to pay my workers, I have to pay my taxes and pay all my statutory requirements, which is NIS (National Insurance) and WASA (Water and Sewerage Autho­­­rity) and the electricity. And when someone swipes a card, I have to pay a further one to two percent, depending on the arrangement the bank has with us. Tell me if what the minister says makes economic sense. How could we survive on something like this?” Naraynsingh said.

He added: “This is not something that we want to do. This is hurting us financially and mentally because these are fellow Trinidadians and these are our customers. We have people we interact with every single day and to do this is not fair, but we have to make it viable. When you depress the profitability like this, there is no room to grow, you just cast us out. Why doesn’t the minister suggest something? Why didn’t he say, ‘Look, gentlemen, I am going to remove the taxes and let us see if that will help you’? Why doesn’t he say, ‘Look, let me give you a $.10 increase or something like that so that we could pay our taxes’?”

Dr Robindranath Naraynsingh

Dr Robindranath Naraynsingh

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