Tobago Budget on June 22

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will present its budget for fiscal 2016 to the Assembly Legislature beginning at 10 a.m. on June 22, 2015.

Chief Secretary Orville London made the disclosure on Wednesday during the weekly post Executive Council media briefing at the Calder Hall Administrative Complex. The budget will be debated on June 25, also from 10 a.m.

The Assembly presented a budget of $6B for the current fiscal year, but was only allocated half that sum.

London said that in the past, the Assembly and Central Government have discussed moving from line item budgeting to a block item system.

Currently, budget requests to Central Government are made under the line item approach. The fiscal allocation cannot cover all the items under the budget request, so variants must be done and the THA must pool money from various heads to meet its needs, London explained.

For decades, the Chief Secretary said, the Assembly has been requesting its allocation “en bloc”—in one full payment—so that the money can be assigned, which would eliminate the existing laborious process of assigning funds.

London also revealed that the Assembly’s 2015 budget was recently increased by $110M due to the recently-approved Variation of Appropriation Bill.

He said that this would not increase the funding available to the THA, since the money was earmarked to pay the arrears of salary, wages and allowances due to teachers, civil servants, daily rated workers and most State employees.

The Assembly asked for $147M but was allocated $37M less. London assured Tobago’s workers that paying them is a priority, and the THA will transfer funds from other areas to ensure they are paid.

Speaking on the Community-based Environment Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP), he advised that Tobago will not benefit from an increase of $75M for an additional 53 contractors under the Variation of Appropriation Bill, which was debated in Parliament this week.

He said the 2015 budget provided for an increase of 340 contractors at a cost of $499M but this only applied to Trinidad. The Assembly requested $50M for CEPEP for fiscal 2015 but received $8M.

The Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) faces a similar problem as the Assembly received less than $18M for URP, which costs $70M to operate. London criticised Central Government for engaging in blatant electioneering in allocating funds.

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