The private sector has a key role to play in Tobago’s development.
That’s why Chief Secretary Orville London is calling on the Tobago Division of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce to re-assess its mindset and posture towards the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).
During Thursday’s response to the THA’s fiscal 2017 budget presentation, London called on the Chamber to be more collaborative “so that we can see ourselves as partners not antagonists on the development journey”.
The Chief Secretary said he felt some of the comments by the Chamber on the $5.3 billion budget presented by Secretary of Finance and Enterprise Development Assemblyman Joel Jack on Tuesday were unfair.
He said the THA cannot do anything without input from certain critical sectors in Tobago.
“I want to send a signal to all the sectors out there that this is the administration [which] the people of Tobago put in place to manage the affairs of Tobago, and regardless of what you think of the administration, if you are representing a sector you have a responsibility to collaborate with the administration,” he added.
The Chief Secretary called for “research-based conversation”, and said “vacuous generic statements” are not in the best interest of Tobago.
“It cannot be seen as responsible when the Tobago Chamber of Commerce does not accept an invitation from the Secretary of Finance to be involved in pre-budget discussion,” London stressed.
“It cannot be seen as responsible when asked to make a submission they take the 2015 submission, white off the date, put in 2016 and submit it as their submission. That is not serious.”
London said regardless of its level of disappointment, the Chamber must accept that the economic, political and social conditions have changed, which means renewed consideration needs to be given to the unique circumstances of 2017.
“I am therefore suggesting Madam Presiding Officer that they do a rethink. The Assembly is ready and willing to enter into discussions tomorrow because we are saying we cannot do it without them, they cannot do it without us, so I am urging them to have a rethink of their position and their posture and let us sit down and have some serious conversation about Tobago’s development,” London said.
He said while the THA welcomes criticism, any such comments should be geared towards improvement.
Addressing the private sector directly, London said the Assembly has serious plans and will implement plans to increase the private sector’s involvement in agriculture. This includes providing large parcels of land to further encourage farming and food processing for export.