Chief Secretary expecting ‘fair treatment’ for Tobago in next week’s budget

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London is hopeful that Tobago will be treated fairly in its allocation from the 2016 Budget, which Finance Minister Colm Imbert will present on Monday (October 5).

London, Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development Joel Jack and Chief Administrator Raye Sandy met with Imbert and Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis last Friday in Trinidad to discuss the island’s request for a total expenditure of $3.36 billion for recurrent expenditure and $2.31 billion for its development programme.

At the meeting, the Chief Secretary said, the Assembly acknowledged that Central Government has two major budgetary constraints—having to deliver a budget less than one month into their term in office, and the uncertainty of the country’s economic situation.

“We did make it clear to the Central Government and they did agree that from the perspective of the Tobago House of Assembly, we expect a level of sensitivity to the issues and the concerns we have raised over the years,” London told reporters at yesterday’s (September 30) post Executive Council media briefing at the Calder Hall Administrative Complex. “We expect that in this budget we would see at least the signals being sent that these issues would be addressed.”

London said the officials also discussed granting the THA a greater degree of financial flexibility, especially with respect to its development programme.

He added that even in situations where there are no cash resources, there should be strategies agreed upon between the THA and the Central Government to have these development issues addressed. This is especially important in areas such as housing.

London said the talks also included the issue of funding critical projects in Tobago that have suspended for an extended period. These include works at Scarborough RC School and Scarborough Secondary, as well as construction of police stations at Old Grange and Roxborough, the terminal at the Arthur NR Robinson International Airport, Tobago’s Fire Service headquarters, the correctional institute at Hope, and the Roxborough Administrative Complex.

“These are among some of the issues which we expect to be addressed and a signal sent as to how they are likely to be funded,” he said.

London added: “We are fairly confident that work on the Early Childhood Care Centres should start in the next month, and there are a number of what we call low-hanging fruits which we expect to be addressed sooner rather than later, so we look forward to Monday.”

The Chief Secretary said the Assembly’s evaluation of its allocation will be based on the presentation of the budget rather than party affiliation because “we enter this as the THA and our loyalties would be to the THA”.

“I must say, we did receive a sensitive response from both ministers with respect to the issues that we would have raised,” London stated. “We indicated that we would have to take a mature approach, recognising the financial constraints under which the government is working but within those parameters we expect that Tobago should be treated fairly.”

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