THA picks 6-man team to develop a Tobago Development Bank

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THA chief technical adviser Anslem Richards. –

The THA has appointed a six-member technical oversight committee to develop the framework for a Tobago Development Bank.

The bank will create an environment in which financing is readily available for investors and developers in Tobago, THA chief technical adviser Anslem Richards said on Wednesday.

He said the committee, headed by Carlos Hazel, technical adviser in the Division of Finance, Trace and the Economy, has been meeting for the past seven months to devise strategies to ensure that Tobagonians who want to start their own businesses have access to working capital.

Richards and three other officials from the Division of Finance appeared virtually before the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Local Authorities, Service Commissions and Statutory Authorities, including the THA.

The JSC, chaired by independent senator Sunity Maharaj, also examined the operations of the Divisions of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport and Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Richards raised the issue of the Tobago bank in response to a question from JSC member Laurence Hislop, who wanted to know about strategies the THA was implementing to create a more entrepreneurial-based economy.

He noted that between 60 to 70 per cent of Tobago’s working population was directly or indirectly employed by the THA.

Maharaj also wanted to know if the level of dependence on the THA as an employer was a risk to the Tobago economy and if there was a dedicated unit in the assembly to track “critical numbers” on employment levels.

Saying an enabling environment for access to capital was sorely needed, Richards said in the short to medium term, the THA is finalising discussions on its loan guarantee initiative, intended to boost the recovery of businesses that suffered during covid19 and generate employment.

“So if they get the working capital that we are trying to provide through the loan guarantee programme, they can restock, re-engineer and there will be a boost in employment through the private sector by these companies that are benefiting from the loan guarantee programme.

“But the longer-term strategy is to create an environment where investment and development financing is readily available for investors and developers in Tobago. Hence the reason the administration is pursuing a development-type financing institution, which we will probably call the Tobago Development Bank.”

He said the committee had already done substantial work.Richards believes the government should lead the transformation of the Tobago economy. “The government is the enabling agency in any economy, and has to create the environment for the transformation of the economy to a more private-sector-dependent economy.”

He said access for credit development through the existing commercial financial system is a challenge, and hence the THA had developed funding programmes “to kickstart and provide capital for the micro-enterprise sector.

Technical oversight committee:

Carlos Hazel

Dr Selvon Hazel

Anslem Richards

Allan Richards

Vernie Shields

Leslie Gray