Ex-finance secretary: Tobago’s development must get back on track

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Joel Jack –

Former secretary of finance in the THA Joel Jack says Tobago now needs to put its development trajectory back on a sound footing.

Jack was speaking in light of of the island’s $2.585 billion allocation in the 2024 national budget. On Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert presented the budget in Parliament.For Tobago, Imbert said $2.298 million has been allocated for recurrent expenditure, $260 million for the development programme and $18 million for the Unemployment Relief Programme.

He said the allocation was $64.2 million more than last year’s. In June, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) requested $4.54 billion.

Speaking on the Minority Report on Tobago Updates Television on Tuesday, Jack said what is happening in Tobago is troubling.

“When you compare what is happening nationally to what is happening in Tobago, I think we all have a reason to be concerned and very much so.”

He said he sat in the Parliament during the presentation, and he questioned whether Tobagonians understood where the country was going and what was happening in Tobago.

“If they compare objectively the stewardship and governance of this island under the People’s National Movement to what is happening now and what Tobago is missing out on, I dare say it is time to get the island back on track, as we have really lost our developmental momentum. Our development trajectory has been impeded and we are off course.”

He said when this year’s allocation was compared to the previous budgets under PNM administrations in Tobago, one had to be concerned as a Tobagonian,  not just in the context of the allocation, but in the context of governance and the island’s development.

“I sat there as a citizen of TT, as a Tobagonian and as a proud PNM, really heartened by what the government has done undertaking since 2015 – a fiscal conservative and a prudent fiscal stance to manage the economy of TT since 2015. Sometimes persons forget the history and quite conveniently so. I always believe in the saying: ‘If you forget your history, you’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.’”

He said he was troubled that the current Secretary of Finance had laid no no financial reports in the assembly. Such reports would have then been open to public scrutiny.

“I let it slip in the first budget. You had the budget in June, you had your November statement, you did nothing. You came back with a second budget and there is no clear accountability of what you received in the past – expenditure, unspent balance.”

He said the national budget was a strategic intent of the administration to report to the nation in terms of the road map coming out of the PNM’s Vision 2030 as to where it would take Trinidad and Tobago and how it would develop the country.

“If you look in that document, it will point to the role of Tobago. Tobago has a unique place in that economic development and we are not playing our part. And as a Tobagonian, I am concerned. We have to get this island back on its development trajectory and back on this sort of framework where you are guided by a policy document.”