Assemblyman Joel Jack pleased with Central Government’s plans for Tobago

The planned acquisition of new fast ferries in Fiscal 2016 will ease Trinidad and Tobago’s inter-island travel woes, Finance and Enterprise Development Secretary Assemblyman Joel Jack believes.

Speaking at Wednesday’s weekly post Executive Council media briefing at the Calder Hall Administrative Complex, Scarborough, Jack said the National Budget delivered by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Monday addressed several key areas of focus. This is in keeping with the Tobago House of Assembly’s Fiscal 2016 presentation and follow-up discussions between the THA and Central Government on Tobago’s needs, he said.

“Beginning with Tourism and Transportation, the Government has committed to the construction of a new airport terminal at the ANR Robinson International Airport at Crown Point, the acquisition of new fast ferries and enhanced operations of the air and sea bridges, thus alleviating the demand gap,” Jack said.

“This positively impacts not only the international and domestic passengers, but also the transport of goods and delivery of services,” he said.

Jack congratulated Imbert on his maiden budget presentation, which he said should be heartening to Tobagonians. He thanked the Minister for responding to the island’s needs.

The Assembly’s Fiscal 2016 allocation of $2.772 billion—of which $2.345 billion has been assigned to recurrent expenditure, $404 million to capital expenditure, and $23 million to the URP—is equivalent to 4.4% of the National budget, a $163 million or 6.2% increase over last year’s figure, according to Jack.

The Secretary said the additional $1.13 billion in direct expenditure through Central Government programmes represents an overall increase of $202 million or 5.5% more than Tobago got in Fiscal 2015.

“It is important to note,” he said, “that other than the ‘spike’ to 4.07% in Fiscal 2013’s presentation prior to the THA elections, this is the first time in the past five years that Tobago has received a point more than the 4.03 minimum required under the [Dispute Resolution Commission ruling].”

The Assembly is pleased, Jack added, that Imbert also acknowledged the need for alternative financing mechanisms such as Public Private Partnerships to expand the stock of high quality hotels rooms on the island and accelerate its housing programme. He believes the pledge to regularise land titles in Tobago will also be a boon to current and prospective homeowners.

Jack said the new Administration must be even more disciplined in balancing the country’s books and charting a more viable course toward a sustainable and diversified economy, due to the challenging global economic environment and the fall in energy prices, which has caused the local economy to contract.

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