Tobago Chamber head: THA budget must ‘invigorate’ the island

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce president Diane Hadad –

Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce president Diane Hadad is hoping the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will unveil a plan to “invigorate” the island in its budget presentation on Thursday at the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough.

The 2022-2023 budget, scheduled to begin at 10 am, is the first presented by the Farley Augustine-led Progressive Democratic Patriots administration, which won 14 of the 15 electoral districts in the December 6, 2021, THA elections.Augustine, who is also the Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy, has said the THA will present a “progressive agenda,” guaranteed to create some shockwaves.

The chief secretary has not suggested a figure but said the budget will contain some ground-breaking ideas.

In fiscal 2021-2022, the former PNM-led THA administration requested $4.7 billion from central government but received $2.357 billion, which included $2.075 billion for recurrent expenditure, $264 million for capital expenditure and $18 million for the URP programme. The figure accounted for 4.5 per cent of the national budget.

In that presentation, Finance Minister Colm Imbert had also announced that $50 million would be allocated to Tobago’s tourism and hotel sector to provide much-needed capital for stakeholders whose establishments or businesses have been devastated by the ongoing effects of the covid19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Hadad said the THA must present a plan to revive the island’s economy post-covid19.

“Hopefully, in our budget is a plan for an invigorated Tobago. I hope that funds will be allocated to activate the economy which has been dormant for many months.

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine –

The entire island needs some level of activation,” she told Newsday.

Hadad said programmes should be outlined to address the environment, tourism and road rehabilitation in communities.

Education, she said, must also be given special attention.

“We need to ignite a new way of reaching the young people, to develop their skills, not in the mundane way, but in a way that allows then to reposition themselves from the fallout of covid19 over the past two years.”

THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris, when contacted for comment, did not want to give his expectations, but said he will deliver a full statement during his official budget reply on June 28.

Owing to the six-six deadlock in the THA between the PNM and PNM in 2021, the budget was not presented or debated in the Assembly Legislature. But then-Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack said the notice had gone out to all THA divisions to prepare estimates for fiscal 2021-2022.

On that occasion, he said stakeholders were consulted in developing the budget estimates, and the budget section of the division was responsible for preparing and reviewing the submissions.

Tobago’s minimum allocation of the national budget is 4.03 per cent, as mandated by the Dispute Resolution Commission.