Chief Sec: $4b Roxborough plan shows ambition

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine during his budget presentation at the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough in June. FILE PHOTO/THA –

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says Deputy Chief Secretary Watson Duke’s $4 billion plan to transform Roxborough is one of many ambitious projects by the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP)..

Duke, the electoral representative for Roxborough/Argyle, unveiled the plan on August 22 at a Caribbean Diaspora Investment Forum’s Invest Tobago meeting at the Brooklyn Museum, New York.

The plan, which comprises ten zones, includes an airport, marina complex, free trade zone and medical tourism complex.

But in a letter to the editors of newspapers last week, PNM Tobago Council leader Ancil Dennis dismissed Duke’s plan as pure fantasy and gimmickry.

The former chief secretary also accused Duke, the political leader of the PDP, of unveiling the proposal without consulting the executive council.

He also wondered if any feasibility study was done before the plan was unveiled.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday after delivering the feature address at the launch of the Man and the Biosphere Art Trail at the Belle Garden Multipurpose Facility, Augustine said the executive council has been having conversations about developing Tobago East.

He said plans to develop Roxborough were discussed even before the PDP won the December 6, 2021, THA elections.

“In the lead-up to the election, we were at the point where we were able to display what we needed to do in Scarborough. There are three main urban areas we wish to develop across the island – Scarborough, Roxborough and Plymouth – because of course there are some benefits to having some measure of urbanisation.”

Augustine recalled Duke first discussed the idea of developing Roxborough in 2015. He said Duke raised it again in Dubai some time ago and, most recently, at the town hall meeting in New York.

He said Duke, who has returned from New York, will eventually discuss the plan with the general public.

However, Augustine said Duke has talked to residents of Roxborough about it already.

“You will notice that out of Roxborough came the Tobago East Chamber of Commerce. All of that came out of some of those conversations that he has been having with the people he represents within that area. There is nothing new about some of these conversations at all.”

Asked if he felt the plan was ambitious, Augustine said, “All of our (PDP) plans are ambitious. As a matter of fact, I don’t know why we think being ambitious is something negative.”

He said Dubai showed ambition to diversify its economy from oil and gas and focus on tourism and the service sector.

Augustine said a feasibility study will fine-tune the plan for Roxborough’s development.

“What will taper these plans, of course, will be when you begin to do your feasibility study, when you look at resources that you have and limitations on resources, where you look at the time factor that will taper the plans and allow people, secretaries, departments, divisions, area reps to now break plans down from the broad vision that is desired to what needs to happen over the long term – which might be 20 years; medium term – ten years; short term – four years.”

However, Augustine made it clear his administration’s plans cannot be achieved in four years.

“I don’t think anybody anywhere thinks or mooted. for example. that our vision for Scarborough will be completed in four years. That is virtually impossible. What we have to do is plan for the long term and determine what can be done in the short term.”

For example, Augustine said upgrades to the Scarborough Botanical Gardens are currently taking place.

“We are preparing to move wires from overhead to underground. In fact, the tenders went out for that already, that was advertised. That is, of course, to make way for proper traffic management, buildings.”

He said there have already been discussions about parking facilities with Udecott, the National Insurance Board, First Citizens and the Public Service Transport Corporation.

“A lot of work is happening in the divisions behind the scenes already. So by the time we cross over into calendar (year) 2023, we will be able to say to Tobago, ‘This is what we will be able to complete by the end of the four years.’”

Roxborough resident Sandra James welcomed the plan to transform the village.

“I think it is a good idea,” she told Newsday.

James, who has returned after living abroad for 43 years, said Roxborough lacks variety in terms of activities.

“When we go down to the Canaan area, I wish we had somewhere up here, somewhere to go. So if he (Duke) brings that casino, I might move in there.”