Finance Minister to meet THA on Budget

Tobago House of Assembly.
Chief Secretary Orville London and Finance and Enterprise Development Secretary Joel Jack will meet with Finance Minister Larry Howai at the end of July to justify the THA’s 2014 budget proposals.

Jack presented the $4.95 billion budget on Monday at a sitting of the House of Assembly. It was debated on Thursday during which all 15 Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries contributed in a ten-hour session which ended at 10 p.m.

London who opened the debate said the fact was that the people’s mandate cannot be fulfilled except the requisite funding was sourced. He added that the Assembly was requesting $1.9 billion for its development programme but if the central government did not change its traditional posture he envisaged a shortfall of $1.56 billion which will compromise all the major developmental initiatives.

The Chief Secretary described the budget as “another leg on the development journey” which his administration pledged to travel hand in hand with the people of Tobago. “We will always be honoured and humbled by the confidence which you have placed in us and we pledge that we will use the budget statement and the statements which will be made by my colleagues in the House as the platform for the continuing development of Tobagonians in a developing Tobago, London said.

In congratulating Jack on his maiden budget presentation he described it as comprehensive and incisive, even visionary at times, displaying confidence and hope in the capacity of young Tobagonians, as well as confidence and hope in a developing Tobago. He said it was refreshing to speak after a Jack who was “so articulate and so focussed”.

London said it was the first time that he was speaking in a 12-nil scenario with no opposition in the House, no minority leader and wanted to remind the population that in his last four budget presentations there was no minority leader in the House but he was not phased then and was not phased now.

He said the financing options open to the Assembly were a Tobago Development Bond, approval for the Assembly to burrow from the Central Bank partly for recurrent and partly for development purposes and the creation of a Tobago Development Bank to provide loans for development.

London said he had a certain level of discomfort with the Central Government wanting to subsume Tobago’s internal self governance issue into the current national constitutional reform process and had informed the Prime Minister of this when they met on June 21. “We had a process that started in this House seven years ago and for the past five years the people of Tobago had spoken. Also the PP Government and the Prime Minister said this is what Tobago wants, this is what Tobago will get; she said nothing about if it was 8-4 or 12-none,” he said.

He said he will be putting in writing a proposal for the appointment of a committee using the principle of the Dispute Resolution Committee where an equal number of members will sit with an independent chairman to come up with draft legislation for consideration by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and Parliament.

London said the security of Tobago was critical to its economy and therefore had to get special treatment but this was not a priority for the government.

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