Chief Secretary hopeful of improved relationship with Central Government

A “partner in Tobago’s progress”.

That’s what THA Chief Secretary Orville London is hoping to find in the new Central Government that was elected in the September 7 general election.

London and Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development Assemblyman Joel Jack are expected to meet with Finance Minister Colm Imbert to discuss Tobago’s needs before the 2015-2016 Budget is presented on Monday September 28.

The Chief Secretary identified self-governance for Tobago and a request for an increase in the island’s lower budgetary limit from 4.03 percent of the national budget as the major issues he plans to raise as a matter of urgency when he meets with Central Government.

“We are mature decision-makers and we recognise the challenging economic times,” London stated at last week’s post Executive Council media briefing at the Administrative Complex in Calder Hall. “But in those circumstances, we believe that with the necessary collaboration and with a Government that is sensitive to the Tobago situation, that we should be in a position to surmount most of our challenges.

“So what we’re looking for is really a partner in Tobago’s progress and I am quite confident that we would be able to achieve that.”

London said it is the responsibility of “any Central Government” to collaborate with the Assembly and ensure the THA can carry out its functions and achieve its objectives.

He added: “The expectations in the THA are no different in this administration than it was in the previous administration.”

London listed a number of other issues he plans to raise with the government. These include land regularisation, public transportation, construction of police stations at Old Grange and Roxborough, a re-visitation of the Reforestation Programme and the utilisation of the Green Fund.

Outstanding bills passed by the Assembly Legislature (regarding the THA police force, and the control of craft within inland waters), as well as refurbishment of the Dwight Yorke Stadium and THA representation on State Board, are also on the list.

“These are non-negotiable issues,” London stressed. “We are looking for a mutually-respectful relationship where there is meaningful dialogue geared towards problem-solving and island-building.

The Chief Secretary said he did not want to “overload the agenda in the early stages”, but added that there are urgent issues to be discussed with the Prime Minister and relevant Ministers that “do not really require significant resources”.

He said: “What they require is commitment on the part of the Central Government to have these issues resolved, and top of the list is self-government for Tobago. We are at a point where we can continue the dialogue and I am hoping we get some redress.”

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