Duke: THA $$ request does not match plans

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PDP leader and former deputy chief secretary Watson Duke. Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

PROGRESSIVE Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke believes the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA’s) $3.95 billion request from central government is inadequate to meet its plans for fiscal 2025.

During his budget presentation on June 24 in the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough, Chief Secretary and outgoing Secretary of Finance, Trade and Economy Farley Augustine said the THA is requesting 5.8 per cent of the national budget to manage its affairs over the next year.

The THA predicated the sum on a national budget of $65.8 billion.

But Duke believes the THA’s request does not match its aspirations.

“As I examine the presentation and the contents of the budget, I see a budget that is not adding up, one that can be regarded as the lowest budget he has presented,” he told reporters.

Recalling that Augustine had requested $3.97 billion from central government in his first budget presentation, in fiscal 2023, Duke said the THA asked for an even larger amount in fiscal 2024 ($4.54 billion).

“However, today, I have seen a level of weakness, in that he based the budget on 5.8 per cent, and he seemed very comfortable with the 5.8 per cent.

“But here is the kick. You are going into new areas that were never spoken of, that were never under the auspices of the THA, like security.

“And it seems like he is operating on flat foot. Straight away he wants to get these things done. But yet you are coming to Tobago with less budget, at least a less(er) estimate than you have done over the last two budget presentations. And you want us to believe in you.”

The Roxborough/Argyle assemblyman said the THA’s request “bore all the hallmarks of the last budget.

“He just kicked down the pail of milk, turned his back and it’s his last (as Secretary of Finance).

“But I expected to see a Farley that is going out in a blaze of glory, one that would have at least estimated figures to match the plans. But these figures have greatly been curtailed and reduced and do not match the plan that he has enunciated for the fiscal year 2025.”

Duke said he is glad Augustine is relinquishing the finance portfolio.

Augustine said a new finance secretary will be announced at the end of the budget debate on June 27.