Minority Council: Unrealistic to expect 6.9% of national budget

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minority Leader Kelvon Morris, left, and Councillor Petal Daniel-Benoit, at a press conference outside the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough. FILE PHOTO –

The Minority Council is calling for more information to be detailed in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) budget presentation for fiscal 2022-2023.

The members of the council spoke with members of the media at the Assembly Legislature following the four hours presentation made by THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine in the Assembly Legislature on Thursday. The assembly is requesting an allocation of $3.97 billion from central government to manage the island’s affairs for the next fiscal.

Responding to the size of the proposed allocation minority councillor Petal Daniel-Benoit believed the requested portion of Trinidad and Tobago’s national budget was unrealistic.

“Our question is how it would be funded. This budget is predicated on a $57 billion central government budget, and it is being proposed that we would receive 6.9 per cent of that. Historically, the Tobago House of Assembly has not received that upper limit and I think it may be a little bit unrealistic to a predicate 6.9 per cent of the national budget.”

She also said collaboration is key in going forward.

“We would have noticed in past budgets where there were significant collaborations between the Tobago House of Assembly and the central government and that would have assisted in offsetting some of the development programmes that the THA wanted to do. The tone of this presentation by the Chief Secretary does not suggest one of collaboration but rather one of fighting and antagonism and we feel that collaborating may auger well in terms of getting additional funding for areas that are under the Central Government.”

Daniel-Benoit said, however, there were some policies going forward that the Minority would support.

“One thing we would have noticed. For us, the words and figures did not appear to maths. The Chief Secretary, in his policy, would have indicated that they want to build a number of houses in this four-year period, and he would have broken it down annually. It was over 200 houses per annum. However, when we looked at it from a cursory view, when he would have highlighted some of the estimates in his presentation, the numbers in our opinion do not coincide with what the projection in terms of number of houses to be built.”

She called for more details, as she said that Augustine did not indicate how much revenue would be generated to offset the cost of the houses. It is just one instance, she said, where the words and the figures do not match.

Minority Leader, Assemblyman Kelvon Morris said: “Yes we are happy that the budget seems to address some of the post covid19 challenges of Tobago, especially the businesspersons, the youths of Tobago because we believe youth unemployment is indeed one of the concerns at this time.”

However, he hastened to add that he would have liked to see a more detailed plan as to how the young people would be treated with.

“The unemployed and underemployed, how do we build out a private sector in such a way that would really allow our young people to really achieve their imagination.

“We are investing a lot of money in terms of educating our young persons out there, our young scholars but how are we going to get that return on investment? How are we going to allow them a place and a space in Tobago so that they can contribute to Tobago’s development going forward?”

He added: “There are a lot of plans, but in terms of the details – how are we going to achieve it? There was no philosophical underpinning upon which we would arrive at this place of being the greatest little island in the world. It is one thing to say it, but the proof is really in the actions.”