Vehicles wait in line on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, to board the newly repaired Cabo Star as it resumed service at the
Port of Port of Spain, on Tuesday. – Ayanna Kinsale
TOBAGO Chamber of Industry and Commerce president Curtis Williams says members are hoping that Finance Minister Colm Imbert will address the outstanding money owed to the island’s contractors in the October 2 budget presentation.
At a news conference at the chamber’s headquarters in Scarborough last Wednesday, former chamber head Demi John Cruickshank said many contractors, some of whom were hired for projects during the former PNM-led THA administration, were yet to be paid.
Saying contractors were owed millions of dollars, Cruickshank called for an urgent meeting with Chief Secretary Farley Augustine to address the issue.
Cruickshank said apart from 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?” he asked.
On Tuesday, Williams said members and Tobagonians generally will be listening to the budget with keen interest.
“This year’s budget is of particular significance to the residents and leaders in Tobago as it holds the promise of addressing critical issues and driving essential developments on the island,” he told Newsday.
“The outcome of this budget holds the key to addressing burning issues that have long hindered Tobago’s progress and development.”
Williams said apart from outstanding payments to contractors, inter-island transportation was also a priority, particularly in light of the fire which broke out on board the MV Cabo Star on August 13.
The cargo vessel, which was replaced temporarily by the Emprendedora, resumed operations on Tuesday.
Williams said the chamber is also hoping to hear announcements in relation to enhanced direct airlift and direct foreign investment to Tobago.
They would also like see the establishment of an in-transit desk at Piarco International Airport as well as “some progress” with respect to the land licensing regime.
“Tobagonians are poised to see how their expectations and aspirations will be translated into concrete actions.
“As Trinidad and Tobago eagerly anticipates the unveiling of the national budget, the Tobago Division of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, is brimming with both optimism and a sense of urgency.”
The Tobago Youth Council, meanwhile, said the budget should pay significant attention to crime on the island. Tobago has already recorded nine murders for the year so far.
“We strongly advocate for increased investment in crime prevention strategies. This includes the acquisition of Coast Guard vessels as the absence of such vessels has left a significant gap in our security infrastructure,” council president Dayreon Mitchell said on Tuesday via WhatsApp.
Additionally, Mitchell said, there should be funding for school programmes to prevent vulnerable students from being lured into criminal activities and gangs.
“These programmes can play a pivotal role in steering our youth away from the path of crime.”
In light of the growing security challenges nationally. Mitchell said, there should also be a higher budget allocation to facilitate the purchase of fire tenders and overall improvements in national security infrastructure.
“Ensuring the safety and security of our citizens is paramount and a well-funded national security sector is essential to achieving this goal.”