After the increase in Green Fund and Business  Levy contributions from 0.1% to 0.3% of sales,  small gas station owners are complaining about  their margins being stifled in the heavily regulated  industry. On the face of it, this appears to be  negligible but it is the single factor which could  lead to the closure of several gas stations. The  potential for closure is real because operators are  taking home $0.05 cents on every dollar of gas sold.  

The local gas station is often the lifeblood  of many communities in Trinidad and Tobago. It  serves the primary function of refuelling vehicles  but may also often function as a convenience store  outlet, providing the essentials.  

The challenges faced by service station  operators range from being easy targets for  misguided bandits to trying to seek out a living  within the confines of the heavily regulated price  structure prescribed by the government.  

For the past 56 years, the La Romaine Service  Station has been a landmark. It is open from 6:00  am to 9:00 pm every day. Mr. Supersad, who  operates the station, inherited it from his parents  who had been running the station since it was  franchised by Texaco and subsequently National  Petroleum (NP). Mr. Supersad sees this station  as part of his legacy to be handed down to future  generations.  

It would be a fitting legacy because the  Supersad family has made many sacrifices over  the years to ensure a steady supply of fuel and car  lubricants to their community. Their business  decisions have ranged from mortgaging private  properties, to investing countless hours in the  business. The La Romaine Service Station has been  a resilient feature of the La Romaine community.  More than providing a safe meeting point to  community members, fuel and car care items, Mr.  Supersad’s gas station has provided employment  to over two thousand La Romanians. As a result  of the dwindling to nonexistent margins the usual  12-member staff, has been downscaled to four.  

On the other side of town, the story is the  same, the Rio Claro Service Station has retrenched  half of their staff in order to keep their business  afloat. Like the La Romaine station, Rio Claro is  a second generation family-run business and has  been in operation for the past 60 years. Over six  decades, the station has employed over 1,000 Rio  Clarions.  

Prior to the increase in the Business Levy  and Green Fund, there were employment  opportunities for persons who are hardworking  and trustworthy. Now the owners have to increase  their sweat equity just to remain open for business.  

The Rio Claro Service Station is a popular  landmark for this fishing community. It provides  the steadiest and most reliable supply of fuel to  drivers and fisherfolk alike. The owners fear that  if there is no relief from the tax burden, then their  only option will be to close their operation and exit  the community.  

With a slightly different experience, owner of  the Siparia Service Station, Mr. Nagib Hosein, is a  first generation owner who purchased his property  by combining his life savings with a family loan.  This service station was his retirement project.  Mr. Hosein’s gas station has been in operation  since January 2008 but was intended to be his  legacy project for his children.  

Like the La Romaine and Rio Claro station  owners, Mr. Hosein has lamented that his margins  have almost disappeared. While the increased  Green Fund and Business Levy contribution eats  away at any margins, increased crime and cost of  operations also impact his potential to survive. If  this station closes, it will have a devastating impact  on the community because the closest station is  miles away in the village of Mayaro. 

Three service stations with the same story.  The 3% increase in Business Levy and Green  Fund is strangling their business. While some  persons can dip into their savings to subsidise  their business that is a short-term solution which  is unsustainable.  

Their one request is for the government  to release the stranglehold on the industry and  provide margins which will make the industry  sustainable.