Chief Secretary Farley Augustine at the handover ceremony for renovated Manta Lodge in Speyside in Feburary. – File photo
FORMER Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce president Demi John Cruickshank said the THA still owes the island’s contractors millions of dollars.
And, he said, the chamber wants an urgent meeting with the Chief Secretary Farley Augustine to discuss the issue.
During a news conference on Wednesday at the chamber’s headquarters, Ansa Mc Al Building, Milford Road, Scarborough, Cruickshank said, “The THA has money for the construction sector. They have not been paid as the Tobago House of Assembly promised to pay the second tranche of their payments as yet.
“We are hoping to write the Chief Secretary to have an immediate meeting with him to follow up on a meeting we had with him before and there were some promises made.”
He was responding to PNM senator Laurence Hislop’s statement, in an earlier interview, that the business sector must improve their storage capacity on the island as many entrepreneurs had complained about shortages in food and other items owing to the absence of the Cabo Star over the past three weeks.
Cruickshank said businessmen simply cannot afford to pay for additional warehouse space because they have not received their outstanding money from the THA.
He added the private sector has been “carrying this burden of Tobago for the longest while.
“We have been talking and a lot of us are at the mercy of our commercial banks. The banks have said to us that they are not even willing to go forward with a number of the businesses on the island. That is something that we will see coming up just now.”
Cruickshank said apart from the Warners (Warner Construction and Sanitation Ltd), only two other contractors were paid from the $100 million the government gave the THA to pay contractors.
“Nobody else has been paid. Can you carry on a business for two years and have no money?
If the THA says they are not going to pay their staff for two years but telling them to come to work every day, how are you going to survive?”
He added, “It’s unfair that we have to be going through this move over and over and begging and pleading with authorities who ought to understand what is happening in terms of the economy.”
Cruickshank said banks are not willing to give anybody in Tobago additional money at this point in time.
Tobago Chamber head Curtis Williams said the contractors’ bankers “are on our backs for that money.”
“So as well as the goodly senator mentioned more capacity in terms of warehousing, we, the business community, will like to expand our warehouses. But if we don’t have the money and we waited for such funding from the THA and the central government because there are a lot of invoices, a lot of bills outstanding for all of us as suppliers, contractors for the government and the THA.”
Williams said he hopes the government and THA can come to the table and pay some of these bills before the end of the financial year.
“It is going to be closed September 30 and we are hoping that they could really pay some of these bills so we could really get our warehouse spaces and get some more stock on island.”