Duke: Use Tobago’s extra $50m to develop electoral districts

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PDP political leader Watson Duke. –

PROGRESSIVE Democratic Patriots political leader Watson Duke says a portion of the additional $50 million the government is expected to give the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) in next month’s mid-year review should be allocated to each of the island’s 15 electoral districts.

Tobago got $2.585 billion in the 2024 budget. Of this $2.298 million was allocated for recurrent expenditure, $260 million for the development programme and $18 million for the Unemployment Relief Programme.

The Standing Finance Committee meets at the Red House, Port of Spain, on June 3, to approve a $2.3 billion supplementation to the budget. Finance Minister Colm Imbert is expected to present the mid-year review in the House of Representatives on June 7.

Speaking to Newsday on May 29, Duke said the additional $50 million should be used to help develop communities in Tobago.

“On the campaign trail (ahead of the December 6, 2021 THA elections), a promise was made to give each of the 15 electoral districts some budgetary allocation,” he said.

“We said $10 million will be used for social programmes, developmental programmes, self-help programmes within the communities, so every single district would be able to see some level of growth and economic development within their districts on a yearly basis. This has not been done.”

Duke accused Chief Secretary Farley Augustine of failing to support the electoral districts.

“Instead, he is doing knee-jerk projects that amount to little or nothing in financial benefits or returns on our dollars.”

He said while the $50 million in supplementary allocation may not be much, “It should not be utilised for recurrent expenditure or the payment of outstanding contractual arrangements that were not fulfilled.”

Duke felt the money should be used to boost economic activities on development, “as small as it may (be), within the 15 districts.”

If the $50 million were divided by 15, he said, “Each district will get about $3.3 million to spend within the next six months.

“That, to me, could be used to alleviate some of the social distress, some of the economic unrest, and perhaps signal to Tobago that at least the jokers who are now in office are finally keeping their word.”