Curtis Douglas –
THE ALL Tobago Fisherfolk Association (ATFA) has described the 2024 national budget as an insult to Tobagonians.
The island has received an allocation of $2.58 billion to manage its affairs over the next fiscal year – some $64.2 million more than its previous allocation.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert said of the $2.58 billion, $2.298 billion has been set aside for recurrent expenditure and $260 million was allocated for Tobago’s development.
But ATFA president Curtis Douglas said he was not impressed.
“It was a Trinidad budget, full stop,” he told Newsday. “This is an insult to Tobagonians once more, as we see every year in terms of growth and development. And Tobagonians should stand in defence of Tobago (against) this watered-down, smokescreen budget.”
Douglas also complained about the way Imbert prefaced the Tobago segment of the budget.
The minister alluded to the policy measures which underpinned the THA’s budget in June, when it requested $4.54 billion from central government.
In Monday’s budget presentation, Imbert said he agreed to the measures “in principle.”
They spoke to a strengthening of the governance and constitutional framework between the THA and central government by improving its autonomy, among other areas.
Imbert said, “I believe that, once properly implemented, this policy agenda, with its strategic interventions and capital works, will advance the socio-economic development of Tobago.”
Douglas noted Imbert had wished the THA “good luck.”
He said, “You could tell by his speech that quite clearly he understands the diaspora and its struggles in Tobago and he is showing grave disrespect to the people of Tobago.”
Douglas also slammed the $260 million allocation for development.
“What could Tobago do with that in terms of development? But yet still you give millions for housing in Trinidad.”
In relation to crime, he observed nothing was said about securing the island’s borders.
“But we are employing 1,000 police officers with the same rhetoric and expecting to get a different result.”
Douglas said the government needs to invest in mechanisms to ensure greater accountability.
“Investigations are recorded so that everyone is clear and precise on what took place in that investigation and reports will be based on what the camera says.”