Government encouraging Ministry to break the law

“Intense provocation” is how Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London has described Cabinet’s decision to put the Ministry of Tobago Development in charge of the island’s Designated Development Areas (DDAs).

Nearly two years ago, London said, the THA requested that Crown Point be added to the list of Designated Development Areas, which would make it more attractive to investors.

The existing DDAs for Tobago are: Arnos Vale and Culloden Estate, Bacolet Estate, Buccoo and Golden Grove Estate, Englishman’s Bay, Lowlands and Diamond Estate and Mt Irvine and Grafton Estate.

Central Government finally confirmed last week that the recommendation has been approved, via a letter from the Ministry of Finance and the Economy to the Assembly. But the letter also states: “Cabinet also mandated the Ministry of Tobago Development to develop a marketing strategy for promoting the DDAs to make Tobago an attractive investment destination.”

Since last year, London has on several occasions publicly requested that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar look into the encroachment by the Ministry of Tobago Development into the jurisdiction of the THA. Add that to a near two-year wait for a positive response, and London said the latest development leaves him with “mixed feelings”.

London said: “The Tobago House of Assembly would have been the agency that would have recommended that Crown Point be a Designated Development Area. And then you have what I consider intense provocation where you are going to say, not only that Designated Development Area, but the other six, you are mandating the Ministry of Tobago Development to break the law by developing a marketing strategy for promoting the Designated Development Areas without any kind of input from the THA.

“In fact, there should be no input from the Assembly. It is a Tobago House of Assembly responsibility, and if the THA wishes any kind of support or assistance or consultation, then it is the prerogative of the Assembly to consider from what entity it will require this kind of support and consultation, and therefore make the necessary arrangements to have that support made available.”

The Chief Secretary explained that the Assembly lobbied to have Crown Point, which he said is the “hub of the tourism sector in Tobago”, designated as a DDA to find a balance between “encouraging investment and discouraging speculation, especially in areas that are not ideally suited to investment”.

Establishing Crown Point as a DDA will offer “significant concessions” to investors and remove the need for the license and approval regime required under the Foreign Investment Act. Various approvals required by developers will also be fast tracked by Central Government.

This, London said, will send a “positive signal” to investors and increase their interest. There’s another benefit as well to Tobago having Crown Point as a Designated Development Area, he stated.

“It protects us as residents of Tobago and citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,” London explained, “that we don’t have to compete with individuals that may be not willing to invest but to use loopholes in the law to purchase land in Tobago where they’re competing against citizens of the country who wish also to purchase property in Tobago.”

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