Don’t take Mittal’s mill even for free

By Raffique Shah
March 16, 2016

Raffique ShahTrinidadians are hell, I tell you.

Take their almost instantaneous sympathy with the 600-odd steel workers who found themselves jobless last week when ArcelorMittal shut down its plant in this country.

Sure, that means at least 5,000 family members facing very uncertain times if not utter devastation. Those who have mortgages or rentals could lose the roofs over their heads. Vehicles may be repossessed. Children’s education will be at risk, in particular those who attend university. And ultimately, putting food on the table might be a challenge.

So yes, these workers, like others who have gone on the breadline because of companies scaling down their operations during harsh economic times, deserve whatever help Government and the public can offer them.

But, has anyone spared a thought for the owner of the business, Lakshmi Mittal? After all, he is the majority shareholder in the biggest iron and steal…’er, sorry, steel, conglomerate in the world.

This poor-rich man has seen his fortunes fall over the past ten years so much so that he might well be deemed a pauper in billionaires’ row!

From a high of fifth in 2006 on Forbes magazine annual “rich list” rankings with a net worth of US$23.5 billion, Mittal has plummeted to 135th position with a paltry US$8.4 billion last January.

Indeed, the depressed global steel market that has put him in this bind has seen ArcelorMittal’s assets decline from its 2014 level of US$100 billion to US$78 billion. For a corporation that operates in 60 countries and boasts of annual sales of close to US$100 billion, suffering a net loss of US$7.9 billion for the financial year 2015 must have hurt.

The magnate, who spent US$78 million on his daughter’s wedding a few years ago, and who lives in a US$128 million mansion in London, no doubt feels threatened by cheap Chinese and Turkish steel that’s flooding the world market.

You think it’s easy being filthy rich?

I know some readers will growl: but Mittal was a nobody when the then NAR government sold him the local steel mill back in 1989, reportedly for a song.

That is true: bear in mind, though, that the Eric Williams government had ploughed more than a billion dollars into constructing what was known in 1981 as ISCOTT. The new mill registered losses from start up to when the NAR took the reins of government, so really, they had no choice.

At the time, Mittal was a “nillionaire”, owning one rusty steel mill in Indonesia. I don’t know who alerted him to the T&T Government’s plan to part with ISCOTT, but reliable sources at the time told me Lakshmi crooned out a boss-rendition of the Indian classic song “Suhane Raat” for PM Ray Robinson and finance minister Selby Wilson, and he walked away with the keys to the plant.

To his credit, having negotiated basement rates and prices for natural gas, electricity, water, land rental and port fees, Mittal turned around the plant’s fortunes. It was renamed Caribbean Ispat and was soon spinning money.

By 1995, from the profits he made at Point Lisas, Mittal had bought steel mills in Mexico, Canada, Kazakhstan and Germany. Thereafter, the renamed Mittal Steel grew like Jack’s magical beanstalk, and the rest is history.

People will say he should never have bitten the hand that put big money in his pockets, that he should have a conscience and carry the local plant through the current depressed times which will not last forever.

But linking conscience with conglomerates and capitalism is oxymoronic, and we would be morons to believe that tycoons like Mittal have hearts. Among the super-rich, there are a few who treat their employees as human beings and give generously to the poor: Bill Gates and Warren Buffet come to mind.

The Mittals of this world, members of the “one per cent club” that controls 50 per cent of global household wealth (estimated at US $250 trillion in 2015 by Credit Suisse), don’t give a damn about the rest of us, or for the countries that provide the enabling environments for them to get super-rich.

By moaning about his losses at Point Lisas and possible rise in operating costs, he expects us to shed tears for him, not for the traumatised workers or the country that helped make him who he is today.

I hope as a nation we can muster the fortitude to tell Mittal where to shove his plant, which will have added little to our economy other than the workers’ salaries, but subtracted much by way of pollution, dog-cheap gas, electricity, etc.

Don’t buy that plant. Don’t even take it for free. And set some stringent conditions for him or anyone else who seeks to operate it henceforth.

By redeployment and Jah’s grace, the workers will survive.

We must have some pride in ourselves as a nation.

4 thoughts on “Don’t take Mittal’s mill even for free”

  1. Historical Analysis – Iron and Steel

    Iron and steel production was the core industry in the new heavy industry strategy of the 1970s and 1980s. Unfortunately, the state-owned venture, Iscott, was the most unprofitable industry located at the Point Lisas complex. Although the modern plant was technically sound and well integrated into the energy resources and deep harbors of the complex, it faced serious marketing and management problems. Iscott’s marketing problems were exacerbated in 1983 when five United States steel companies filed an antidumping suit against it. The government’s deep involvement at Point Lisas in general, especially its provision of cheap inputs to iron and steel production, made for a difficult defense against claims that the government subsidized the steel industry. After paying countervailing and antidumping duties for several years, in 1987 Trinidad and Tobago signed a voluntary export restraint agreement with the United States to limit iron and steel exports to 73,000 tons per year for a three-year period. Management problems, particularly in the steel mill’s melt shop, caused steel production to fall for the first time in 1984 and 1985. Declining production and large financial losses persuaded the government to hire two West European firms to manage Iscott’s operations under a two-year contract. Production did increase in 1986, signaling the early success of the outside management contract.
    Full Article :

    The Sound of Steel

    One of the first industries to be developed at Point Lisas was the Iron and Steel Company of Trinidad and Tobago (ISCOTT), a state-of-the-art plant designed by Midrex Corporation of the US. During its early years of operation, ISCOTT become saddled with myriad problems which reduced output to about 40% of capacity and made it a drain on the treasury and a burden on the taxpayer.

    But in 1989, the government took a decision to lease the plant to the India-based Ispat Group of Companies. At the time, the name Ispat was virtually unknown in the region. But five years later, Ispat’s western expansion programme has made the Caribbean part of the global steel industry.
    Full Article :

    History of Arcelor Mittal

    ArcelorMittal was formed from the acquisition of Arcelor by Mittal Steel. Mittal Steel was in turn formed from the merger of ISPAT International and LNM Holdings. The timeline below covers the history of these firms.
    Full Article :

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  2. The decline in the steel industry is not cause by the Mittal family. It is the overproduction of steel in the global market by China. Mittal has agreed to settle wages and compensation package after discussion with the Labour Minister.

    It is odd that the PM railed Mittal along with arm chair critic Mr. Shah. The “in bed” relationship with the PNM and the media is causing “cataracts” by the dozen in the once independent media house. One day they will close also.

  3. Shah God works in ways that are strange to us. Dont forget ALL MAN are equal before Him. Also, do not forget that our sins come back to haunt us. I have been preaching over and over PNM will fall and hard. They brought the lousiest businessmen mostly skull men to Trinidad including the drug lords and now we are reeling in pain in T&T to resolve their arsinine shit they created with our natural and human resources especially when our natural resources were selling at premium world prices (they were giving it away for a grease hand). Aside from this they were putting goats in top jobs who were only bhahing (false papers). Now they have to fix all their wrongs and they are looking to do that with more goats in high places. This is exactly what the UPPER CLASS wants now. They are going for broke. We, the lower class have to deal with sad state of affairs T&T is in now. WE MUST ACT NOW and put all they arse to pasture….both benches of government including the idiotic President. Imagine in these times his only problem is a medal. The upper class now stands to lose everything they worked their arse off for. Trinis got to wake up and smell the coffee…it stinks.

  4. “I know some readers will growl: but Mittal was a nobody when the then NAR government sold him the local steel mill back in 1989, reportedly for a song…..bear in mind, though, that the Eric Williams government had ploughed more than a billion dollars into constructing what was known in 1981 as ISCOTT. The new mill registered losses from start up to when the NAR took the reins of government, so really, they had no choice.” Uncle Shah

    Well I’ll be …..Just imagine for a moment , that cause for de plight of today’s unemployed steel workers , were laid completely at the feet of African leaders ,such as Dr Eric Williams , and Tobago ‘s own ,ANR Robinson, for their role in selling the failing steel mill, to the lucky billionaire creature Mittal.
    Let Hansard show that the UNC is a labor created party, with Errol Mc Cloud ,and Wade -MBA- Mark, as respected labor leaders, but she Kamla , did notting ,to either diversify the economy,or protect local workers ,when oil/ gas was raking in dollars- and yet no criticisms.
    From 1962 to present, the PNM won 195 out of 200 elections.Indian politicians , policy wonks, Permanent Secretaries , and a long list of high end Public Servants , helped shape our socio economic , and political realities in T&T people, so if some blame is to be made, shouldn’t it also be shifted to Indo Trinis likewise?
    Just saying.
    Contrast that with the self serving, eat a food Afro Trini blokes, who elevated their ULF / UNC/ PP political benefactors interest, without simultaneously raising a pinky finger ,for their still desperate own.
    Is it a stretch to say likewise ,Uncle Shah, that the UNC ,as part of the NAR alliance, played a major role in shaping the policies of the political leader ANR Robinson- and so would have had some influence in him selling the now famous steel mill?
    As for crime, we know the typical narrative- Trini African savages commit, and or condone crimes, while more civilize, Trini Indians ,are industrious , family oriented , spiritual minded blokes , who alone are law abiding , and love their country.
    Of course , those of us in the know , are quite aware ,that such idiotic reasoning , can be equated with the ‘ cow that can jump over de moon,’ idea,or airplanes, not sex ,as the real the cause of our rising population, and sadder yet , dat the still rising ,demographic- swing vote – Dougla population in T&T, is the sole results ,of African sexual predators ,ignoring their -seemingly less enticing – aggressive females, and instead , opting to rape their more docile , Indian female, fellow citizens,si?,226615.html

    So to flesh this out , as we can see,the behavior, and or reactions/ debates ,are de same – whether it’s the precarious labor,and terrible global economic reality,that filtered down to T&T,via unemployed Steel Workers ,or the shortsighted , naive reactions, to the worsening National Security- crime scene.
    Yep, and I am talking about gender,party, and tribal finger pointing. It’s got to be voters fault ,for supporting the PNM , since crime always rises , once dem pro criminal minded , Afro Kinky head savages got in power , one PP MP, seems to be mot too subtly saying , with a straight face,we might add.
    Sorry , but you devil worshippers are wrong, for de PNM remains the party of falling crimes, and high detection rates , responded our passionate AG. A Rawi- still confident he will still have a job as a Sando MP, after UNC appointee Judge, Mama Lucky ,and fellow legal luminaries , rule on his election recall.,226619.html

    Not to be outdone is women’s champion / anti Human Trafficking head guru,in ex Police ACP Sampson Brown, as she now sit on a lofty , eat a food post, pontificating with her faulty ,Social Science theories, and quasi religious mantras.
    Let’s get back to dem good old days ,when – perhaps, according to her questionable logic – I was a police, and Trinis cared more about each other,or better yet, treated our women with dignity.
    You remember de time people,she seems to be saying , when an abused ,traumatized female, could come to a police station ,with a report of domestic violence, and the police would treat the matter in a serious fashion, as opposed to what is occurring today.
    Now dat ain’t the most ludicrous part my good fellows . Listen this one ,and again , I paraphrase.
    We want a game plan , we want police in our bedrooms ,even to the point of counseling folks, in bad relationships , before violence ensue.
    That the cry from seemingly educated people , and can you believe it? Yep , and right up there with police in our prisons, police in our schools . What next ?
    Our local Police , are ill equip to deal with many of their own internal Social issues, or seriously grapple with everyday crimes , but we wish to turn them into armed, Neo Freudian Psyco therapist.

    So there it is folks , we spend the entire 5 years of the Kamla PP regime , demanding change , as she promised , and yet , few were charged for committing atrocious crimes under previous PNM rule .
    It’s now what ,7 months into the PNM Rowley reign ,and from all appearances, citizens would be subjected to the same foolishness.
    I am talking about 5 years of denunciations, and innuendos , of all the crimes committed from 2010, and yet again , no one is paying a price.
    Notice the frivolous commentary by Cuz Al Alwi, about phone jammers, and attempts to curb the efforts of incarcerated hit men, but his government still has full confidence in Kamla’s lawyer son, in -tribal cronyism beneficiary -Inspector of Prison David Khan- even though , it was under his watch, closet criminal Prison Officers got rich, as they turn a blind eye , to guns , and drugs entering his prison, repeated,blatant breaches in the institution’s internal security occurred , so much so , that prisoners are escaping , and murdering willy nilly.
    So let de high crime escalate , both in PM Rowley Lavantille “home, “ and Kamla’s Central ‘Enterprise’ Chargunas , South of de Caroni back yard.
    Our T&T is still sliding down the part of Fail State hood, so let your influence count. Advocacy remains the key, and Civil Society, can be a vehicle . Here is de deal -Politicians , in their respective governments, have a vital visionary, regulatory, and enforcement role to play, as far as nudging our country forward.
    The Business community , can be encouraged to step up, and support win/ win initiatives, even as they make their millions.
    Remember folks, patriotism transcends , reciting the Motto , and singing our National anthem verbatim, while draped in the national flag.
    I could be wrong , but ,’me think,’It’s possible to be winners together, for the same reasons we collectively evolved into what many experts are claiming as losers.

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