Chief Secretary Farley Augustine at Friday’s press conference at Shaw Park in Tobago. – THA
THE THA is expected to present its budget reprioritisation agenda on Thursday at the Assembly Legislature in Scarborough, Tobago.
In September, Tobago received an allocation of $2.5 billion in the $57.6 billion national budget to manage its affairs over the next year. Chief Secretary Farley Augustine had requested $3.9 billion in the THA budget presentation in June.
Of the $2.5 billion, $2.2 billion was allocated for recurrent expenditure, $300 million for the THA development programme, $18 million for URP and $9.2 million for CEPEP.
Owing to the shortfall in allocation, Augustine met with the executive and administrative heads last month to revise the assembly’s agenda.
At a news conference last Friday at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, Augustine said the THA will present its revised agenda at Thursday’s plenary sitting.
“Post the national budget, we sat as a team with the administrative heads of the Tobago House of Assembly and we diligently went through all of the priorities as per funding and so the outcome of that exercise will be presented in the House,” he said, urging Tobagonians to pay attention to the key areas for fiscal 2023.
Augustine said the THA is also preparing for an island-wide discussion on the strategic plan for the island.
“Some of you may be aware of the CEDP 2.0 (Comprehensive Economic Development Plan) for the island that expired some years ago. There is a need for us to come up with a strategic plan that will take care of short term, medium term and long-term plans and strategies for the island of Tobago. The question is, ‘Where do you see this island in four years, ten years, 20 years, 30 years?’”
Augustine also addressed climate change, saying there is an urgent need for the THA to come up with a position on the issue.
“One of the things that we have to do as an island that I think we have not done sufficiently in the past is to sit down and have a strategic plan that treats specifically with climate change and the impact it will have on our weather systems.”
He noted that world leaders and environmentalists at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference lamented the perceived inaction of many countries in addressing the issue frontally.
He said Tobago, like many other islands in the eastern Caribbean, was predisposed to the effects of climate change because of its geological make up.
“We have to learn to live with the sea on one hand and the hillsides on the other hand because most of our communities are sandwiched between the sea and the Main Ridge.
“That means that on one front the sea is battling against us to take all the lands that we have. We see what is happening at the back of Scarborough Secondary. The very old folks will tell you that at one point they could walk from Lambeau to Scarborough on a beach. That isn’t possible today.”
Augustine said many people also live on hillsides because of the geological make up of the island.
“Part of this island is volcanic in rock type and basic geology will tell you that we will have some rich, fertile soils but we will have steep slopes, cliffs, hillsides to contend with as part of our geological make up.
“That means that when we have experienced rainfalls like we have experienced, we will get quite a bit of land slippage. We will have to contend with that.”
He said people continue to build houses without permission from the relevant agencies.
“We have built without any regard for what can happen along these hillsides.
“As the rains come. As the storms come, we face this difficulty. Several of our neighbours have faced difficulties these past few weeks. So there is an urgent need to tackle this problem head on.”