Address by Chief Secretary The Honourable Ancil K. Dennis on the 45th Republic Day Anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago

The early visionaries of this nation were rarely daunted by uncharted waters. They possessed an audacious type of spirit, which led them to venture beyond familiar moorings, and break new ground. Through that fierce courage, and firm sense of self-determination, they were able to take a young independent nation to another level as a republic state.

It was a move which signalled to the rest of the world that we believed fully in ourselves. That we were placing our faith in our own strength and capabilities to build Trinidad and Tobago. Indeed, this transition empowered us, but it also entrusted a greater level of  responsibility to all who call this land their home.

More than four decades later, our transformation continues as a developing island, and nation, eager to attain much more. Before the advent of this pandemic, many strides were made regarding our national development, and this crisis ushered in its own significant changes that will take us forward.

While much of our energies are being directed towards our immediate survival, we still must ensure that we do the necessary groundwork to sustain our nation’s future.  Similar to many other countries navigating this period, we are at a critical juncture that demands our nation-building efforts enter into overdrive.

Undoubtedly, the recovery of our Republic from this present crisis will be no easy feat. It will be an onerous undertaking for all of us, but surmounting this challenge is not an  impossible task. The mission of rebuilding our beloved country and its economy will require the same bravery and gravitas that the first architects of our nation displayed.

As many are aware, this pandemic presented a major shock to our national economy, disrupting the encouraging growth that had begun before its untimely emergence. Therefore, new avenues of generating revenue must be explored, while traditional sectors that continue to show promise should also be bolstered to further enhance their viability. During that period of reconstruction, I am extremely confident that Tobago will play a more formidable role in the economic advancement of this twin-island state.

One of the key areas of focus will be the development of our island’s orange economy. This is a promising and diverse area once strategically harnessed, can boost more than the national treasury— it can also strengthen our collective soul.

Ultimately, we are tapping into a resource that we have in ample supply. A resource that many studies continue to predict will be a necessity to compete in the globalized economy.

Over the years, Tobago has shown consistently that it has all the facets to become a creative titan of this region. Though small in size, we possess a dynamic history, vibrant festivals, and an unmatched charm which belies these 116 square miles.

The operationalization of the Tobago Performing Arts Company (TPAC) is truly fresh oil in the creative engine of the island. This company will be an important vehicle in transforming Tobago’s performing arts sector through training and development, outreach, and much more. Those in the front seats are well-equipped with not just the passion, but the necessary foresight needed, to drive this local Company to global heights.

What makes TPAC incredibly special is that its emphasis is not placed solely on improving the performance aspect, but also on contributing towards the creation of a competitive and marketable product.

Essentially, TPAC represents yet another crucial rung on the ladder to elevate the creative sector across this island, and by extension the country.

Greater priority is also being placed on developing a more robust agricultural sector across Tobago. This sector remains vital in the goal to improve our food security, expand trade possibilities, and strengthen our overall resilience.

The island’s agricultural thrust is also a sentimental journey, as we are actively working on restoring Tobago’s legacy as a former food-basket of this nation. From the young to the old are planting the seeds to rebuild this legacy, with hopes of leveraging it towards our prosperity.

Within recent times, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has executed several key projects including a much-needed renovation of the Scarborough Market, returning it to the heart of the capital. This facility remains a popular cost-effective option for local farmers and agro-processors to sell their goods, as well as an important cultural space for Tobagonians.

Much ground continues to be covered with the development of agricultural access roads and farmlands; the procurement of key equipment for the farming community; and protection of our blue resources.

On the agro-processing front, the formation of the Tobago Agro-business Development Company (TADCO), has been another important addition to our agricultural framework. TADCO will play an instrumental role in strengthening our food manufacturing sector, and can also energise our SME’s by evening the playing field for larger markets.

The progress on the creative and agricultural fronts will be channelled intentionally into our tourism industry. While tourism has been a major casualty of this pandemic, no stone will be left unturned to ensure that this industry makes a powerful comeback.

During this downturn, Tobago was still able to secure a number of industry victories which will greatly benefit us when this pandemic abates. We have earned the coveted distinction of a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere site for the ecological and cultural value of the North- East region. Most recently, the island won silver in the destination category of the prestigious Travel Industry Club Destination Awards.

This period has also been maximised to improve areas such as our customer service, to renovate accommodation options, and to explore new niches such as wellness tourism.

Brothers and sisters, our republican status remains an enduring symbol of our strong belief in ourselves to navigate the road ahead— come what may. The next chapter of building this great nation requires prudent and creative action, to replace the crippling hold of fear. It demands accountability and performance from the government and also the citizenry. This period calls for intense collaboration, as well as personal responsibility.

As we attempt to emerge from the ashes of this unprecedented crisis, we all must aspire to be agents of radical change.  We must remember that we are a people who rise from the flames, and shall never be consumed by the heat of them.

Happy 45th Republic Day Trinidad and Tobago!  Our recovery is nigh! Our resurgence is closer! The restoration of our great homeland is assured!

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