The Tobago House of Assembly’s budgetary allocation of $2.35 billion for fiscal 2017 was short of last year’s sum of $2.772 billion.
But Chief Secretary Orville London is satisfied with Tobago’s allotment for the next fiscal year. London said Tobago although it’s less than a year ago, he believes “Tobago has been treated with the requisite equity”, given the financial constraints facing the national economy.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that Tobago’s funds, which represent 4.4 per cent of the national budget of $53.4 billion, include $2.045 billion recurrent expenditure, $289 million capital expenditure and $20 million for URP.
London said Central Government’s commitment to begin a number of development projects in fiscal 2017, which the Assembly has been requesting for years, is encouraging.
“In addition to the allocation which is about close to 4.5 per cent of the national budget, there are some initiatives outside of our budgetary allocation which are of critical importance to us and which we were heartened they were given special mention,” the Chief Secretary explained.
“Among them were the commitment to start construction of the new airport terminal (at ANR Robinson International Airport) in 2017, and also to start construction of the desalination plant (in southwest Tobago), and the provision of additional energy at Cove (Eco-Industrial and Business Park) and the police stations (at Old Grange and Roxborough).”
London said some of the incentives announced by the Finance Minister will also help stimulate Tobago’s economy, and complement the island’s economic diversification efforts.
These include the zero rated tax relief for agro processing, which will encourage local entrepreneurs, incentives for public private partnership ventures, as well as a renewed focus on tourism and Central Government’s support of the proposed Sandals resort, which Imbert said should provide 2,000 jobs and bring in $.5 billion in revenue to the country.
“All of those are the kind of things that we would have discussed (with the Finance Minister) because we understand the economic constraints and therefore we have to look outside of the allocation for opportunities.”
London also reiterated his calls for Tobagonians to make adjustments on what he expects to be a challenging year ahead.
“Fiscal 2017 is going to be challenging, and I’m repeating my appeal to all of us in Tobago to understand that we have to be prepared to make some sacrifices and put in more effort.”
Still, the Chief Secretary believes that with the right attitude and “necessary diligence”, Tobago can make strides forward in fiscal 2017.